- CRITTER TALK
- SCI/TECH/OTHER STUFF
This is a story about how a message about self-confidence was passed from a famous inventor, to my grandfather, to me…..and now to you.
When my grandfather arrived from Italy, he lived with relatives in West Orange, New Jersey. I mentioned in a previous post (A Life Lesson: Keep Your Enemies Close) he had to learn a trade as a teenager to help the family that took him in. He quickly became a skilled tile and brick mason and was sought after by those building large period homes. One job led him to meet Thomas Edison who moved to West Orange before the turn of the century. Grandfather was contracted to do brick work on Edison’s house and his inquisitive personality allowed him to meet Edison and hear about his inventions.
Being a struggling Italian immigrant, grandfather was fascinated by everything this man had invented. One day, he asked Thomas Edison how he was able to accomplish so much in his life. He told grandfather at an early age he learned that hard work plus self-confidence is what it took to succeed at almost anything. Right before grandfather died, when I was nine years old, he told me that story and said he thought this lesson was always meant for me because Thomas Edison and I had the same birthday: February 11th. He said, “Carolina, always remember this lesson from a very important man: fiducia in se stessi, più il duro lavoro (self-confidence plus hard work).” Hearing that made me listen harder and so I have thought about Edison’s message on self-confidence many times in my life when I needed to overcame the challenges in front of me.
My first real life encounter with this lesson came when I was 15 years old; many years after grandfather had died. I decided to try out for the lead Flag Twirler position at our high school. I was not the twirler type; ethnically too curvy and not in the cliques that were so prominent on the Jersey Shore. In fact my mother, who was not at all confident, was worried sick that I would be devastated when I didn’t receive a spot on the twirling team, let alone the lead position. She tried to talk me out of trying out by reminding me how important my dancing was and what a good field hockey player I had become. So, I told her about grandfather’s story of Thomas Edison. She nodded her head as if she had heard it all before. I said, “Mother, I am sure of just one thing; I will NOT be on that team if I do not try out and I am confident I will succeed.”
I got myself a huge flag and practiced as hard as I could. What I added to the typical boring routines was my leg strength and some interesting dance moves. I signed up for the try outs along with the girls in the cliques who didn’t even know who I was. And I kept thinking about Edison’s lesson; self-confidence and the ability to work hard. I had those things, so I had no idea what my mother was worried about. The day of the tryouts, I went through my routine flawlessly and noticed the surprised looks on the judge’s faces; I guess I didn’t “look” the part. I then made eye contact with each of them as I confidently thanked them for their time.
We were told we’d have the chance to say a few words to the judges after our audition; so I did just that. I decided to address the fact that I had strong legs (my term for big) and that my leg strength combined with my dance moves could make for a new kind of flag twirling at our New Jersey high school. All the local schools attended by more ethnically diverse kids were already doing high step dance twirling, so I knew that would appeal to the judges.
The next day, our names were posted with either of these phrases next to them: did not make the team; made a different position than tried out for; made position tried out for. I stared at my name and saw what I knew would be there: made position tried out for. I ran all the way home to tell my mother I was the new captain of the flag twirling team. She cried her eyes out in relief and joy for me. I told her she just had to have more confidence in me; and she always did after that.
Trying out for that lead flag twirling position was just the beginning of attempts at many things leading to both failures and successes. As I look back on the failures, one or both of the ingredients was missing for me: self-confidence or very hard work. Think back to how that may be true in your own life.
Confidence is a funny thing. You don’t have to be born with it, but someone has to plant that seed very early on in your life. Think about whom in your life needs that small seed of confidence planted in them: from Thomas Edison, to grandfather, to me, to you, to someone else…..anything is possible if those ingredients are present.