It was October.
I was in a fancy hotel with a bunch of adults, and had no idea what I was doing. I wore a press pass around my neck, tucked my shirt into my pants and smiled a whole lot at strangers. I'd seen Frozen the night before, and did my research. I was prepared.
Except for the fact that I was the only teenager in the room and it was totally obvious.
Then there's the fact that I couldn't breathe, and picturing a sandy beach wasn't helping.
When I started middle school, I got sick in the mornings. I'd sit in the bathroom and pretend that it was all part of my academic journey. But once my grades started dropping, my mom and guidance counselor agreed to stop letting me stay home from school. So I suffered through my sickness in the school bathrooms.
I read TIME for Kids Magazine in fifth grade, but still had copies hidden around my room. Articles decorated the space above my desk, and old issues were used as bookmarks. I only thought about applying to their yearly talent search once, and that was because my fifth grade teacher encouraged me to write.
The encouragement continued in middle school, but in sixth grade, I was too busy wondering if I had a deathly disease or some sort of anxiety disorder.
Deathly is most definitely how it feels: all you know is that it's getting so hard to breathe, a dead feeling in the pit of your stomach growing larger and larger all the while. You're not sure what triggered it, not even sure what a trigger means ,even though therapists always mention it, and you don't know why you're scared.
The one thing you do know is that everyone is staring at you. Even if no one knows who you are, when you have an anxiety attack, it feels like everyone's watching.
I've been alone in a pool of anxiety, struggling not to drown despite the lack of air, many times.
But when I went to the press junket for Frozen, it felt like everyone noticed me. And why wouldn't they? I looked like a kid who'd snuck her way into the Waldorf-Astoria to meet the cast. There were only a few who asked. Everyone else just stared.
Sometimes silence is worse than someone actually insulting you, because everything is left up to your imagination.
I sat in the corner, internally freaking out instead of enjoying myself. Sure, I'd pre-written my questions. And yeah, I practiced them in front of a mirror a million times. But it all melted away.
The round table interviews reminded me of gym class. There was a group of people, and everyone participated.
Except for me.
I was the kid who sat and stared, wide eyed, at Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. They'd written the music. For a Disney Movie. For Frozen.
It took about 20 minutes for it to sink in.
While the roundtables were going on, no one stared. They were all engrossed in work, so I did the same. The main exception was a woman who was interested in me for some strange reason.
I like to think of her as the nice kid in gym class, who chatted with me on the bench even though she could run bases without a problem and I always slipped.
I didn't feel like a reporter.
Not until Idina Menzel walked in.
"Why didn't you ask me any questions?" She asked me as she pulled me in for a picture. I fumbled with a lame excuse before I remembered A BroaderWay, the foundation she'd co-created. I was sure I sounded stupid.
But she gave me information to write another story.
And slowly, air started to enter my lungs without me making the conscious effort.
"When is your story coming out?" A man asked me as we waited for our one-on-one interviews. When I told him, he grinned and promised to read it. My heart fluttered.
As I snapped a selfie with Jonathan Groff and smiled goofily at Kristen Anderon-Lopez in the hall, I realized that controlling my anxiety was possible.
So yeah, the one-on-one with Kristen Bell was one of the best experiences of my short life.
"There will be no more apologies," she declared. She spoke adamantly about The Little Mermaid and making little shivering noises that I regret not replicating in my piece.
It was probably the best first one-on-one interview I could've been assigned to (next to Tim Federle, of course, but he wasn't the first).
"It'll get easier the more you do it," she promised me later.
Maybe I'm scared of people because I leave too much to the imagination. I might have to force myself to breathe, but maybe being the one to initiate a conversation will help ease my anxiety.
So I have to thank TIME for Kids and everyone at that Frozen press event for not only making my dreams come true, but allowing me to realize what I want to be when I grow up and teaching me a new way to cope with anxiety.
Who would've thought, right?
(Guess who doesn't get anxiety attacks before interviews now? This girl.)