During last weekend’s March for Our Lives, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Samantha Fuentes, a wounded survivor of the shooting tragedy, got on stage to give an impassioned speech to thousands of protesters. Halfway through her address, she ducked down behind the podium and vomited.
The crowd got quiet, then murmurs of concern hovered in the air as the cameras looked away. Not a minute later, Fuentes reappeared with a smile, shouting, “I just threw up on international television, and it feels great!” Cheers and applause erupted from the audience as she jumped right back into her speech.
Now, there are few things as embarrassing as the idea of experiencing an involuntary bodily function in front of millions of people. Still, Fuentes, a teenager, knows the secret to triumphing over what was likely a result of her nerves as well as her trauma: You own it. You raise your hand and say, “Yep, that was me!” You offer a quip to let everyone know you’re fine, that it’s OK to acknowledge what happened, and to laugh along because you’re in on it. Then you go right back into what you were doing.
Now, Fuentes’ speech was extraordinary for several reasons, and we aren’t saying that the focus should be on her getting sick. But we do think that she taught us all an important lesson in grace in adversity – a lesson we can use in our real lives.
The likelihood of puking on stage is, in most cases, pretty slim. But there’s always the possibility of something going awry: Your slideshow stops working, you let out an involuntary belch right into the mic. If something awkward (or even awful) happens to you on stage, remember what Fuentes showed us all: We’re all part of a community. Moments that are awkward for you are equally as awkward for the people watching. They’re caught between a state of being concerned and wanting to laugh. When you offer them an out by owning what happened, they will like you for it! Not to mention, they will be impressed that you kept on going after the fact.
Believe it or not, getting over an embarrassing moment on stage can actually work for you a lot more than it can hurt you. What was maybe just an excellent speech is now also an example of your good sense of humour, your tenacity, and how well you can handle yourself under pressure. So, don’t fret if something goes wrong: Just follow Fuentes’ example and own it.