Back in Grade 8, we had an assignment to recreate the trial of Louis Riel. I remember clearly that I wanted to be the judge because I thought I would be good at it thinking I was honest, logical and fair. But it turned out I was assigned as a lawyer instead. Now a lawyer was the last person I wanted to be. Not because of their perceived negative traits (we were only in Grade 8 after all), but because, well… I was scared.
Talking in front of all those people, what if I didn’t do a good job? The thought terrified me. I had no ambitions of being the centre of attention, I thought of myself more as a “behind the scenes” kind of guy. These were the people who supported those in the spot light. The ones who helped research, come up with good arguments but certainly not be the one bringing down the rein of terror on the unsuspecting witness in front of a whole classroom of peers. No, I never thought of myself as “that” guy.
But a funny thing happened during the trial: I was good, really good (as far as Grade 8’s go at least). It turns out thinking logically is an excellent trait for being a defense lawyer (hence the term “lawyered”). I was cutting down the opposition witnesses one by one. In fact, we were winning the trial so badly that the crown side had to bring in a ringer. They actually conscripted the other grade 8 teacher as an expert witness. It turns out that they didn’t think it through so well as she played a priest who had heard Louis Riel confess to his crimes. Unfortunately, I came up with the argument that confession was an anonymous activity, so how could she know that it was really him? Circumstantial at best. We easily won the trial after that and as I remember I got an A on that project.
I never expected myself to be good at it. Neither did my teachers or my peers. In fact, they were stunned how forceful and loud (I guess I’ve always been loud) my voice came down when I did my first cross examination of the witness. I had always been the shy, quiet guy sitting in the back. Where this vengeful pint-sized lawyer came from, was a mystery to everyone including myself. But I guess that’s the point. I gave myself (or at least was given) a chance to shine, to be in the spot light and I succeeded. Had I resisted this opportunity, I might never have known my abilities to present out logical arguments in front a group of my peers and I may never have known that I could succeed in this way (worse yet, Louis Riel might have gone been found guilty in our mock-trial condemning him to a mock-death). Unfortunately, it took me a long time to realize this and up until recently, I hadn’t been giving myself these opportunities as much as I should have. But that’s all changed because I finally learned that I just need to give myself a chance to succeed.