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If I Fail
Relax. Deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out.
It’s only the most important week of your life. No big deal. If you fail epically, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll just wind up miserable, poor, alone, unhappy, and probably diseased.
What’s so horrible about that?
Oh God, this meditation thing isn’t working.
I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling. How do those Tibetan monks do this all day long? How do they not drive themselves crazy with what-if questions?
What if the issue isn’t good enough?
What if we don’t win the award for the record-breaking fourth year in a row?
What if I totally bomb my admissions interview?
What if I don’t get into any college and I have to spend my life scrubbing chewed gum off the underside of desks?
What if …
“Oh, what a beautiful morning!” My dad opens my bedroom door and glides in, spreading his arms wide and singing totally off-key at the top of his lungs. “Oh, what a beautiful day!”
He’s been waking me up the same way since kindergarten. Thankfully it’s not always the same song. He has a whole repertoire of morning hymns, most of them originating from musicals that had their heyday decades before I was born.
“I can’t do it,” I say with a groan. “I can’t handle the pressure. Just sign me up for janitor school now and get it over with.”
My dad laughs and opens the vertical blinds. I pull the pillow over my head to block the light. “Did anyone ever tell you that you worry too much?”
“Yeah, you. Daily.”
He removes the pillow from my face. “Well, you should listen to me. I’m a very wise man.” He pulls the covers off me and yanks on my dead arm. “C’mon. Let’s go. Up and at ’em, soldier. If I can face today, then you can face today.”
The realization hits me like a punch in the gut.
Oh God. That’s right. It’s my dad’s big night. I totally forgot.
I suddenly feel guilty for lying here lamenting about my own stress when my dad is dealing with a major career turning point of his own. Tonight is his first big gallery show. He’s been trying to make it as a photographer since pretty much before I was born and this show could change everything. It doesn’t really help that the subject matter of his photos is a little on the unusual side. I mean, we all think he’s talented, but it’s taken a while for the rest of the world to catch up.
“Crap,” I swear, jumping out of bed. “Dad, I’m so sorry. I forgot. I’m a terrible daughter. Are you ready? Are you excited? Are you nervous?”
He shrugs and shakes his head. “Nope. Not nervous at all.”
Always the cool cucumber, my dad.
That must be a recessive gene because I certainly didn’t get it. Frankie, my little brother, on the other hand, he’s pretty much my dad’s mini-me. Well, if you replace a photography obsession with a theoretical physics obsession.
“How do you do it?” I ask. “How do you stay so calm?”
He shrugs again. “I don’t know. I guess I have faith that whatever happens was meant to happen. Oh, and of course I have faith in Magnum.”
Magnum is the name of Dad’s favorite camera. He named it after Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, the main character of the eighties TV show Magnum, P.I., about a private investigator played by Tom Selleck. He chose the name because Magnum always sees the truth. Just like his camera.
Magnum is one of those fancy models with a bunch of letters and numbers in the name. I can never remember which numbers or letters, though, which is why I’m grateful he calls it Magnum. Dad has loads of cameras, but Magnum is like his best friend. He never leaves the house without it. It’s basically an extra appendage.
I sigh. Okay, I can totally do this. I can be chill and relaxed and have faith. I can trust that …
Dang it! I forgot to tell the printer that we’re testing out a brand-new layout in this month’s issue. They’ll need to double-check all the new margins. I have to email Eric again.
I grab for my phone and open my inbox.
Dad laughs and walks out of the room, kissing me on the top of my head as he passes. “Breakfast in ten.” Then he closes the door.
I tap out the email in a flurry and hastily press Send just as I realize I misspelled my own name at the bottom. The email zoomed off so fast I couldn’t really see, but I’m pretty sure I signed it from Jennefry. Instead of Kennedy.
I sigh and compose a new email. Eric is going to hate me. If he doesn’t already.
Hi Eric. That last email was from Kennedy. Not Jennefry. Just in case you got confused and thought some evil nemesis named Jennefry staged a coup and took over as editor in chief of the paper. Nope. It’s still me. Thanks.
I press Send and take a deep breath, glancing up at the wall above my desk, at the three framed issues of the Southwest Star that I hung there. Like every morning, the sight of them instantly gives me strength and calms my nerves.
I exhale and return my attention to my phone, opening my SnipPic app and scrolling through my notifications. I got seven likes on my latest picture. One from Laney, my best friend since freshman year. One from Austin, my boyfriend. And a few from members of the newspaper staff, including Mia Graham, my features editor, who is in line to take over as editor in chief of the paper when I graduate in May.
The picture is one Laney took of me in the newspaper office last night. We had to stay until eleven o’clock and the issue is still not finished.
I scroll through my feed, skimming past the various photos of people I follow, mostly fellow newspaper staffers, until I find the one I’m looking for. It’s the latest selfie from CoyCoy55. She’s standing in front of the amazing grand brick staircase of the Windsor Academy Prep School, dressed in her pristine blue Windsor Academy blazer with a pressed white-collared shirt underneath. Her gorgeous auburn hair is blowing in the early November breeze and she’s smiling that perfect, pink-lipped, white-toothed smile.
She already has fifty-two likes and her caption reads:
Another beautiful day at W.A.! Can’t wait to hear our guest lecturer this morning! He’s a state senator!
A state senator!? Seriously? Who’s next? The president?
The other week, they had an astronaut as a guest lecturer, and last year Daphne Wu, my all-time favorite author, came to speak. I came this close to sneaking into their famous amphitheater-style “Lauditorium” just to catch a few words. We never get guest lecturers at Southwest High. Besides, where would they even speak? In our crummy cafeteria where all the tables and chairs squeak? In our pathetic excuse for a theater that smells like dirty socks because it’s right next door to the boys’ locker room?
With a sigh, I close the SnipPic app and toss my phone on the bed. I bet CoyCoy55 doesn’t have to worry about newspaper issues and print shops and impressing alumni interviewers. I bet she doesn’t have to worry about anything! Everyone knows that when you go to the Windsor Academy, colleges simply roll out the red carpet for you. You probably don’t even have to fill out an application. Every top college in the country probably just hand delivers you an acceptance letter via some white-gloved messenger service.
Meanwhile, across town at Southwest High, we’re all grappling for the measly handful of spots the Ivy League colleges reserve for public school kids.
I close my eyes. Relax. Deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out.
You can do this. You’ve got this. Everything is going to be …
I forgot to tell the printer we need a hundred extra copies for the award committee members. They’re going to have to order more paper.
My eyes flash open. I grab for my phone again and start tapping out another email, praying this won’t be the excuse Eric uses to finally add my address to his spam filter.
Text copyright © 2017 Jessica Brody Entertainment, LLC