July 28, 2016

They Looked at me like I was Crazy: Cheerleader Tryouts at 40.

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If you know me, you know I’m a firm believer in doing things that take us out of our comfort zones.

I am also quite spontaneous, which can be good or bad depending on the situation. One of my Facebook friends posted that she was trying out to be a cheerleader and wanted people to vote for her. I shared her status, saying “Vote for my friend, I’d try out myself if I weren’t too old.”

I should know not to put ideas like that in my head if I’m not prepared to follow through, because my next step was to look and see what the age requirements are for Colts cheerleaders. It turns out, there is not an upper age limit. Huh. So, I did what any rational 40-year-old mother of four with zero cheerleading experience would do. I decided to try out to be a cheerleader.

I drove out to the Colts’ practice facility for a 2 1/2 hour long conditioning and dance class for prospective cheerleaders. I did not tell many people I was actually going because I fully intended on chickening out at some point during the 40 minute drive. My sweet, supportive husband said: “You should do it! You’d be great!” A couple of close friends said the same words, and I repeated them to myself as I drove toward doing something that made me question my sanity. I blared Frozen’s “Let it Go” on the radio on the way and sang loudly and badly to it.

“And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all! It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and breakthrough.”

There might have been a few tears as I thought about walking into a room filled with perfect-bodied young cheerleaders as if I belonged there.

I got there a few minutes late—everyone was already warmed up and starting the workout as I walked in. The beautiful young ladies at the check-in table graciously acted as if it were perfectly normal for me to be there. I thank them for that.

I walked up to a sea of perfect bodies, long toned legs and long gorgeous cheerleader hair. If I had to guess, I would say the oldest one there was at least 10 years younger than me, and most were 20 years younger. I stood next to the friendliest face I saw and jumped into the workout. It was an hour-long high intensity interval training workout, and it definitely was intense! I am proud to say I kept up with the workout every step of the way. A couple of times the young lady next to me looked at me and said, “Wow you’re really good!” I’m sure she was thinking, “Wow you’re really good for how incredibly old you are,” but it felt great to hear it anyway.

After the workout, I felt so good about how I had done that I decided it was time to declare to the world that I was doing this crazy thing, so I posted a picture from inside the training facility saying I was trying out to be a cheerleader. I clicked post and it was taking forever so I decided to give up and re-post it after class.

After the interval training we did a half-hour stretching class. I had a chance to chat with the girls around me during stretching. I told them how proud I was of them that they had the courage to do this, to follow their dreams, while they are young and that I never would have done it at their age. I felt like a sage. An older, wiser, fatter, frumpier sage.

Next was the dance portion. I took tap and jazz when I was little, and I’ve taken pole dancing classes for the last couple years. Neither of these came anywhere close to preparing me for what the dance part of the class would be.

The other girls were dancers. They’ve danced their whole lives; many of them are dance instructors. The choreographer quickly showed us 16 counts of choreography and then we were supposed to do it, just a few girls at a time, to show her.

I felt like I was going to throw up. Seriously. I looked around to see where the bathroom was in case I had to make a run for it.

I was contemplating just running to the sidelines, grabbing my keys, and walking out without looking back. But I didn’t. I did my best with a big smile on my face. I’m not going to lie, my best sucked, but I did it. During the leaps when I watched everyone else fly through the air like gazelles, I jumped as far as my short little legs would take me. During the turns I kept getting wobbly and almost falling over. I laughed and told the girl next to me that there is usually a pole I can grab onto for support when I dance. She looked at me like I was crazy.

I stayed for the entire dance portion even though everything in me was screaming for me to leave. When it was over, a young lady came up to me and said “I like your pink socks.” I gave her a big hug and said that meant a lot to me. She might think I’m crazy. But it did mean a lot that even though she knew she couldn’t say anything nice about my dance, she wanted to say something encouraging! And those socks do rock, she’s right.

At the end, as I was walking over to get my things, I thought, “Well at least that post didn’t post so I can just pretend this never happened.” Then I looked down and saw my phone light up with notifications.

It had posted.

I had over 50 likes on my photo and 25 comments already in the short time since it had gone up. Everyone was telling me they were proud of me, that they wished they were brave enough to try the crazy things I try, to follow their heart.

I walked to my car and sat and read through them all and cried. I cried like a baby. I was so thankful to have so many supportive people in my life. I was so thankful that I had the bravery to try something completely ridiculous. But I mainly cried for my teenage self. I think she was a pretty great girl, but she had no idea. She had not yet found what would bring her joy in life, and didn’t think much of herself. And people told her “These years are the time of your life! Enjoy them! It only gets harder from here!”

They were wrong. Wrong. Please never tell these words to a teen. There is no way I would have been brave enough to do this when I was actually the appropriate age to do this. I’m honoring that scared teenager I was by being brave now. I’m hoping my kids will follow my example and be brave too. And in that moment, sitting in the car crying, it felt complete.

Sometimes just trying is enough, and sometimes just trying to try is enough. I decided that the experience of trying to try was enough for me.

I’ve had friends tell me that I have inspired them to try things that have always scared them, to restart projects that they have put on hold, to truly live and not just go through the motions of life. This makes me happier than you can imagine. I am happy to see my friends blossom and follow their hearts and find their joy in life. I hope they go on to inspire others to do the same. I want my kids to live in a world full of people who have come alive.


Author: Cindy Johnson

Images: Courtesy of Author

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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