Merriam Webster defines this noun as a position of uneasiness, embarrassment, or anxiety.
Most of my hot seat moments took place at school. In the third grade, I got so excited about getting to walk in the rain to school that when I got there and took off my outerwear, I realized I had not changed out of my pajamas!
Two weeks into the second grade, I convinced my mother she no longer needed to meet me across the street and escort me the last two blocks home. We walked together that morning and said our goodbyes. All day I thought about how much fun it was going to be walking home by myself. When the bell rang, I gathered my things; skipped out the door and down the sidewalk until I got to the intersection and realized I had no idea where I was going.
So, I did what any six-year-old girl might do- I sat down and started bawling.
When a classmate noticed I was in distress, he got a teacher who called my mom, who came to my rescue with my little brothers in tow.
It makes sense to me that school brings out the most awkward moments. The combination of naivete combined with a small amount of education fails even the bravest. It gets better, but it doesn’t get easier.
The hot seat moment that still embarrasses me happened when I was a freshman in high school.
I was in marching band, and it was our first home game. We were marching for the first time in our full uniforms, including the crazy tall hats. In an arrow formation at the center of the field, where everyone follows the first marcher, I was the lead off.
For days I lived between the glory and dizziness of being a freshman and the first person to step out and the intimidation and responsibility it carried. I perfected my sound and practiced marching in the backyard, paying close attention to the position of my flute. We marched 8 to 5, eight steps to five yards, so it was doubly important that my knee reach the proper height and and my foot strike the ground with each step.
On the night of the field performance, the butterflies began while we sat in the stands. Knowing my family and friends would be there gave me no comfort. I recited my markers over and over in my head. By the time we were instructed to put on our hats and begin leaving the stands, I was in a full state of mental paralysis.
While I cannot remember the song we were playing, I remember exactly how I felt when I held my flute perfectly and my knees high as I pranced off the 50-yard line– a full measure BEFORE I was supposed to. Within seconds I realized the only instrument I could hear was mine and decided to finish out my route. I continued playing and when I reached my mark, stopped, and faced the audience, tears, and all, while the rest of the band continued the drill in the timing it was designed. It felt like forever that I stood facing the packed stadium alone.
Enough time has passed that I no longer remember the extent of my consequences. I do remember they were not as stiff as I expected. Mr. Armstrong, my band director, probably considered humiliation would serve as its own teacher. I stayed in band, not succumbing to my embarrassment and shortcomings. And those hot days on the field remain some of my best high school memories.
In every humiliating situation in my life, I have learned something. Sitting in the discomfort of the hot seat helps me recognize a shortcoming. And that first halftime of my freshman year, you could say humility leveled the playing field.
What about you? What hot seat moments do you still carry? Did they change you in any way?