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Cheering or Cheerful?

“Let’s go, let’s go! L-e-t-s g-o!” I cheered for the millionth time trying to be as enthusiastic as possible. The fake smile was spread across my face as I pretended to be as cheerful as the crowd.

In my mind, cheerleading was my gateway to popularity. My high ponytail, bright white cheer shoes, and short skirt made it seem as though I was all put together. I had dreamed about being the popular cheerleader since I was a little girl. I had seen it in all of my favorite chick flicks; there was always the one girl that dated the star quarterback that had the ultimate looks like Chad Michael Murray. Then, there was the girl with the silky blonde hair that screamed popularity. I finally had made it into this serene world that I believed was the ultimate pathway to happiness. I was blonde. I was a cheerleader. All that was left for me to gain was the crowd of so called friends and the prince charming boyfriend.

As I walked down the halls I went out of my way to say hi to any and every person I knew. Unlike my unrealistic expectations, I was the one seeking others’ attention. The image in the movies where the girl walks with a posse following behind her was the opposite of my situation. I reached out to others hoping that my halfway enthusiastic “hellos” would be enough to grasp their attention so that they would wish to know me. Of course, I do not mean the real me, but instead the me that revolved around a life of too much makeup and fear of rejection.

One week into freshman cheerleading practice our coach began putting us into stunt groups. I awaited patiently for my fate. I knew in the back of my mind that I had a lot falling on where I would stand in the dreaded pyramid of popularity, or at least I thought I did at the time. One by one, our coach looked at our height and size to take into consideration who would be in what spot. I stood to the side as I tried to hide the skittish look that kept taking over my face. Slowly, girls began being picked off as flyers until I was left to be a back spot.

Every day we would practice on the halfway muddy freshman and JV football field as we attempted to hold up the weight of the flyers. Each time we went to hit a lib, in which my flyer had to transition from two legs of support to simply one, she came crashing down on top of us. The two bases never held their end. Instead, I was left smacking my back straight to the dirt and grass as the girl had summited on top of only me. What I had not realized at the time was that it was not only the weight of the 100-pound girl that left me hopeless, but the weight of my thoughts that had collapsed right with her. I began to care less that we couldn’t hit the stunt needed for our desired pyramid and started caring more about what I wasn’t getting from this team.

Sometimes I wish it was as simple as the movies. Instead, I would leave practice feeling nothing short of unaccomplished with no new jock boyfriend and certainly no friends who truly cared about my well-being. I continuously felt isolated as I was never chosen to be the girl held in the air for all to see, but instead the back spot holding yet another girls balance as she was given the spotlight. I was never chosen to be in the front or on the top. I was pushed to the back.
However, being pushed into the background I was able to gain a better perspective. My obsession to be the star of attention was never going to truly fulfill me.

When junior year came around the corner, I quit trying out for cheerleading. It took time for me to realize that I was not a quitter, but instead, I was bettering myself. I began seeing the change in the way I composed myself. My “hellos” in the hallway were no longer out of the desire to gain popularity, but to genuinely engage in conversations with my peers. My life at school began to focus on the true bonding and strengthening of my true friendships. Of course, there were days I still hoped people would notice my cute outfit or the way my makeup looked, but it was no longer my main goal at the end of the day. Today, I am proud of my decision to quit cheer. Being a cheerleader did not bring me happiness and although I thought it would lead me to a cheerful life, sometimes I am forced to accept that my expectations do not always match reality and where I had thought I always belonged is truly the last place I should be.