This I Believe: Don't Fear the Front Row

Feb 24, 2016

Something I have always noticed, walking into class on the first day of school, is how seats in the back of the room fill up the quickest. Students rush to these spots as if there were free cell phones on their desks. In a way, it’s understandable.

After all, it’s hard for teachers to keep a watchful eye when you’re twenty feet away. And the farther back you sit, the lower your chances are for getting called on to answer questions. I always considered myself a “middle-rower”, hovering between the boisterous bunch in the back and the timid calmness of the front, until a surprisingly insightful activity with some paper and a recycling bin inspired me not to suffer from front-row intimidation.

One day in class, my teacher handed out pieces of paper and instructed us to crumple them up into balls. As we crushed the paper, she moved a recycling bin to the front of the room. She challenged us to shoot the paper balls into the bin… without leaving our seats. At once, I felt a collective thought radiate around the room: if only we’d picked a seat closer to the front! All around me, my classmates exchanged nervous glances, as though we could already foresee the outcome – an all-out paper ball war. And we were right. Since a majority of us were sitting farther than the third row, little white spheres ended up all over the room. In the aftermath of the chaos, we surveyed the room and saw the floor covered in white. Even some basketball players, who were seated at the very back, missed the bin by a wide margin.

My teacher, who watched us fail miserably with a patient smile, started to explain what we were slowly realizing. Ultimately, the bin represented success. The paper balls were our dreams, and where we were sitting showed our effort to accomplish them. You can’t achieve your goals as a backseat viewer who shies away from challenges upfront. “Stay close to your goals. True victory comes from chasing your dreams with vigor,” she advised us.

Ever since that motivational activity, I’ve aspired to be a front-row sitter in every opportunity I am given. I understand that being as close as you can get to each new experience is an important part of life. Fearlessly facing challenges shows a strong character, a commitment to success. Over time, I’ve learned that even my everyday decisions—such as being the first volunteer to present a project in class or joining a school club—amount to so much more when they become a habit. I’ve never regretted taking the initiative. I realize how important it is to be able to take hold of the reins and design your own future, and that can’t be done from the back of the room. Life is a theater, and those in the front row get an unobstructed view of the main action. This I believe.