Susan Nellson Baird

Freelance writer and social media coach, Bellevue

I was in with the wrong crowd coming into high school, and lacked the confidence to try to connect with kids more like me. One day in middle school choir class, the teacher gave those of us who played the piano a sheet of music and told us to have it ready by next week. So I did, because I'm a people pleaser who never wants to let anyone down. I played, and a week later, she told me I was the accompanist for the high school. I didn't even know I was trying out for it.

I wanted to say no, because I was terrified of the responsibility. I didn't want anyone to expect anything of me. I was very socially insecure. I'd been bullied a little bit and didn't feel well liked or respected by the cool kids, so I had no confidence. But I think she had a mission all along, and it wasn't just to get a piano accompanist. She looked at me, sensed that there was something more there that wasn't coming out, and went after it.

The result was that, in a small way, I became valued and necessary to my peers. As the accompanist, I found ways to help different choir sections find their notes, which kept them out of trouble with the director. That provided the bridge that lead to feeling socially accepted by the "right" crowd, the kids with potential, the ones probably headed for college. More than anything, I gained the confidence that I needed, which set me on a successful path.

While I've always loved playing the piano and have passed that along to my kids, I was most impacted by the lesson I learned: when you tackle something that scares you head-on, you'll surprise yourself regarding the depth of your strength and perseverance, and the ripples will create opportunities you never believed you'd be able to access.