The Spring of my freshman year thoughts were beginning to turn to high school. In the Fall I’d be heading to the campus of McKinley Senior High. I was nervous, but more than that I was excited–certain high school would be The. Best. Time. Ever. I was going to join every club and make new best friends with everyone I met. And I was going to be a cheerleader!
I had been cheering for four years and was excited to continue throughout high school. I breathed school spirit. I wanted nothing more than to wear a red and black uniform yelling “Go Bulldogs!” while shaking pom poms. With cheerleading tryouts just days away, I practiced in every spare minute.
On the day of tryouts I teased my hair into a bouncy ponytail tied with a red and black bow (Go Bulldogs!) and wore my peppiest smile. I nailed every cheer and flashed enthusiastic spirit fingers! It couldn’t have gone any better.
I couldn’t wait to see my name listed as an official McKinley Bulldogs cheerleader. When the roster was posted, I hurried to the high school to see who had made the squad. There were a handful of girls already there looking over the list. Peering around them, I could see the names of two of my friends. (Yay Lisa and Michele!) I read the other names of my new-best-friends-I-didn’t-know-yet. (Yay for you, new friends!)
There it was. The entire list. And my name wasn’t on it.
I tried so hard practicing for hours and my tryout went perfectly, but I didn’t make it. My best wasn’t good enough. Although I was as perky and full of school pride as any of the other girls, I couldn’t do stunts. The skills demanded of a Bulldog cheerleader were out of my range. I was crestfallen.
Desire. Preparation. Performance. All the parts of the formula that, when added together, were supposed to equal success. Isn’t that what everyone says?
You can do anything you set your mind to.
If you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen.
If you can dream it, you can do it.
But that’s not how it worked out for me, certainly not in my cheerleading tryout.
Although I was disappointed, I wasn’t going to let that stop me from making my high school experience The. Best. Time. Ever. I joined some clubs and the gymnastics team. The coach said my strength made me a good fit for uneven bars. Because I was new to the apparatus, it wasn’t until nearly the end of the season that I was on the roster to compete in a meet. I was ready to perform after months of training and practice. I saluted the judges and mounted the bars. I flew through the routine. I wanted a solid score–one that reflected my effort. The judges scribbled and conferred. My score was posted: a meager 3.1. I put in sweat and blood preparing, giving it my all, but I failed. No matter how badly I wanted it or how hard I worked, the reality of the situation was I wasn’t very good.
Once again I picked myself up and dusted off my bruised ego. In my first year of high school, I understood disappointment and falling short. I learned a lot about myself and how to fail with grace. I also figured out sometimes you win and others you don’t.
Throughout my years at McKinley I made a lot of friends participating in different clubs and activities. I really was having The. Best. Time. Ever. The Fall of my senior year we nominated classmates for Homecoming Court. What a perfect Cinderella story ending! If you just keep trying and never give up, your dreams will come true!
During the tapping ceremony the five male candidates each gave a rose to a female student signaling she had been voted onto the court. They circled around and through the crowd to find each girl. Every time one of them walked in my direction I held my breath. Every time they walked right past me. I couldn’t have wanted a rose more, but there was no amount of desire that would make that dream come true for me.
I thought about people saying if you want something enough, it will happen. Well, I wanted to be a cheerleader, a gymnast, a Homecoming attendant … and none of those happened for me.
I realized those clichés were just empty words that provided false hope. They had built me up and let me down. My dreams had been fueled by the idea that with enough desire, hard work and determination, I could do anything I set my mind to. Those stale sayings weren’t true. They were nothing more than meaningless words.
Throughout my years at McKinley Senior High, I learned many things. One of the most meaningful lessons I found is wanting something–no matter how much–isn’t enough to make it happen. Practice and hard work don’t always get you what you want. And, honestly, doing your best work doesn’t guarantee you’ll be successful. Sometimes, your best just isn’t enough.
I learned how to move forward when things don’t work out as I hoped and that real life isn’t a fairy tale … there’s no pixie dust or magic wand. Sometimes your hopes and dreams come true. And sometimes they don’t.
I found out life goes on–in good times and bad. I learned disappointments are part of life. And if I allowed myself to be knocked out by the things that knocked me down, I wouldn’t have had The. Best. Time. Ever.