I've found that we start learning some lessons early in life. My sister made sure that I started tap, jazz, and ballet when I was young. She decided that I would follow in her footsteps and be a cheerleader. I didn't care much about cheer, but I liked my big sister's attention, so I jumped on board. In fourth grade tryouts, my sister learned the routines and made me practice until I had them down. She was so proud when I made the squad. Fifth grade went a little differently. I hadn't enjoyed cheerleading much the year before and didn't put much effort into it, and I didn't make the team. That led to my first experience with how terrible and cruel kids can be. I got made fun of relentlessly because I wasn't good enough to be a middle school cheerleader. That shame carried me through cheer tryouts and making the team every year into my high school years. I didn't do it because I loved it but because I didn't ever want to experience the rejection from fifth grade ever again.
I thought middle schoolers were terrible until I got to high school. Around my sophomore year, I started caring more about academics and my grades and less about my sports. When my junior year rolled around, so did hell because there were a couple of freshman cheerleaders who made it their mission to do everything in their power to make me cry. The fact that I wasn't quick to give in made them come at me even harder. I think the worst rumor they ever started about me was that I liked girls. Thinking about this now, I feel silly that I ever let it bother me so many years later. But back then, in the year 1999, it was mean and hateful, and I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.
By the time I was debating whether or not to try out my senior year, I was taking multiple advanced placement classes and still playing volleyball. I did not want to continue cheerleading, but I was too scared to regret my decision, so I tried out and made the team. The school had a rule that you couldn't quit a sport that was also a class, so I got stuck, and I wouldn't say I liked it. I made it through football season, but I dreaded honoring my basketball and wrestling season commitment. And then a miracle happened. See, the only thing the school cared about more than making students honor their commitments was how many students they had enrolled in advanced placement classes. It just so happened that my favorite teacher, Mr. Bein, was teaching AP U.S. History only during the same hour as cheerleading. The principal approved my transfer into his class, and I said goodbye to cheer for good.
To be continued..