Re-Belle: Because One Never Outgrows Being a Cheerleader…

(A Cheerleader Looks at 50)

“Every time I say ‘sure’ when I mean ‘no,’ every time I smile brightly when I’m exploding with rage, every time I imagine my man’s achievement is my own, I know the cheerleader never really died. I feel her shaking her ass inside me and I hear her breathless,

girlish voice mutter “T-E-A-M, Yea, Team.”

-Louise Bernikow

You know us. We’re easy to spot in almost any situation. We’re a sorority of girls, spanning generations, with “perky” attitudes and at times obnoxious enthusiasm. You see us at Little League parks, gymnasiums, football games and even at your kids’ awards programs. We’re the ones who yell “Woo-hoo,” or “Awesome,” while waving our arms wildly above our heads, wiggling our fingers in the ever popular “spirit sparkles.” At times, we look like the Statue of Liberty, with our arm extended above our head, making a fist, and when something exciting happens, we wave that arm above our head like we are trying to lasso the closest thing to us, striking fear in the hearts of all those around while screaming, “Woooooooooooooo!!!!!!!” We can’t help doing these things. It’s who we are. Some of us are Dragons, while others are Raiders, Bulldogs, Tigers, Mustangs and the like, but we all have the same purpose and goal: to propel our team, or group, or child into victory with positive accolades, that “never say die spirit”, and the belief that even though we’re not the ones actually playing the game, or involved in the event, we have the power to make a difference in the outcome. I’ve heard the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem.

“My name is Sharon, and I’m a perpetual cheerleader.”

As someone who is a member of the half-century (plus a few years) club, I have become very introspective and analytical. In high school, “Cheerleader” was my identity, and as I look back upon my life and the things I’ve learned, I see that many times I have applied cheerleader-esque qualities to situations. Here are a few things that I’ve learned. And please understand I learned some of these things the hard way.

“Ready? OK.” Sometimes it’s better to be kind than to be right. This thought was not originally mine, but one that I read in Silver Linings Playbook. How much of your time has been wasted trying to prove someone wrong or convince them that you are right when it comes to a certain situation? My guess is more time than it’s worth. No matter what you do or say, when you reach such an impasse, you will never change the other person’s mind or thought process. Whenever you find yourself in that conversational or emotional détente, take a breath and ask if it is really worth it to be right at the expense of the other person’s feelings. It’s called “taking the high road” and when you actually do that instead of running the risk of ruining a relationship, you are a true grown-up.

“Way to go grown-up, way to go!” (clap, clap)

Less is more. This concept was taught to me by my mother and let me quickly clarify that she specifically was not speaking about swimsuits or clothing. Her philosophy has always been that the way you dress should leave something to the imagination. Why reveal too much only to disappoint? The idea behind “less is more” is easy. It means “simple, yet elegant.” Don’t be too over-the-top in anything. Be understated and classy. This applies to your appearance, to decorating and to life in general. When you are happy with what you have, you will not spend your life constantly wanting more. (Another exception to the “less is more” principle is in sports. Obviously, you want to have more points than your opponent).

“S-C-O-R-E, score, let’s score!”

Don’t be a bandwagon jumper. This is something that really gets under my skin, and I’ve had to use serious restraint to not jump on bandwagon jumpers. As an Aggie, these are the people we call “t-shirt fans.” Fans who support whichever team is hot, or popular, or currently number one. The only investment some of these bandwagon jumpers have is a t-shirt. This principle runs very deep with me because if you are truly a supporter of a team, you will stick with them through wins and losses, good times and bad. It’s not always pretty and it usually takes a huge amount of humility to fend off the insults and jokes that people will dish out. I think this also applies to politics, as well. Stand behind your beliefs and firm in your convictions. Don’t change your philosophy to reflect what is trendy, or politically correct or cool. To quote Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Just say “NO.” This one is easy for me. Early in my teaching career, I sponsored every group and organization known to man. From BETA club, to cheerleaders, to drill team, to UIL speaking events and Student Council. By the time I had children of my own, I was completely exhausted. I dragged them around to all the sporting events and school events that I attended, as well as all of their activities. During their Jr. High and High School years, I became a “slacker mom,” and I’m proud of it. I wanted to enjoy watching my children play sports and if possible, paid someone to work in the concession stand for me. (I’m sure at this point, some of you are gasping in horror. I did help out in many ways. Come on, you know that even Super Woman has to send her cape to the cleaners every once in a while). Today, I have wonderful memories of watching my kids’ teams play rather than nightmares about pouring concession stand cheese into a crock pot and frying French fries in the very questionable vat of grease. I realize some people love to be busy and thrive on burning the candle at both ends. And some of these people even enjoy “complaining” about how busy they are. We all know that they just want others to know all that they do, and they discuss their busy life with Helen Reddy singing, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,” in the background. What do I say to that?

“Big N, little O, No. No.”

Do three things every day: Laugh, Think and Cry. One of the best speeches I have ever heard was given by Jim Valvano, former North Carolina State basketball coach and sports commentator. He gave this speech at the ESPY awards when he only had a couple of weeks left to live. He was dying of cancer. The overall theme of the speech was “Never give up,” and along these lines he spoke about three things you should do every day to live a full life.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

~Jim Valvano

If you’ve never heard this speech, you should “google it” or go to “youtube” and watch it. I showed a video of the speech once when I was getting evaluated. It moved my principal to tears and my evaluation was:

“Super great (clap, clap) Super great!”

Believe. Believe in yourself, believe in others, believe in God. Don’t let other people break your spirit or steal your joy. Decide each day that you are going to be the best you can be at whatever it is you do and truly BELIEVE that. I’ve struggled with this greatly over the past few years. I’ve let other people determine my path as well as my attitude. When you allow others to make you feel inferior or inadequate, you are giving them power over you. When you know you are doing what’s right, doing the best you can, and doing for others, keep the naysayers away. Be confident and kind, and always believe in “you.” My father used to say, “When you’re good at something, you don’t have to tell other people by bragging about it. They will already know.” Years ago, my husband coached a basketball team, and whenever the game became close, or we fell behind, the crowd started cheering, “We believe.” It seemed so hopeless and hollow. It was as if we were waving a white flag of surrender. What did we believe exactly? That we were going to lose? This was never chanted at the beginning of the game, but always in a do or die situation, and sadly, it usually meant the game was going in the “loss column.” Years later, another team he coached was playing for the state championship. The opposing team’s fans had shirts that said, “We believe,” and during the fourth quarter of the game when they started chanting, “We believe,” I knew we were about to be crowned the state champions. Believe at the beginning, and in the middle and at the end. Don’t just believe when it’s convenient or when you need help. Do as Journey says and “Don’t stop believin’.”

If “ifs and buts” were candy and nuts, what a Merry Christmas it would be. My Dad said this all the time, usually applying it to A&M’s football team. I used to wonder exactly what this meant and now it is so obvious. Don’t make excuses for anything. Don’t blame others for your mistakes or problems. It is your life. Own it.

“G-O-F-O-R-I-T—Go for it, (clap, clap) Go for it.”

Be your biggest cheerleader. Tell yourself every morning, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Don’t wait for others to acknowledge your accomplishments, and don’t fish for compliments. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” ~Norman Vincent Peale

“Go out in the world and work like money doesn’t matter, Sing as if no one is listening, Love as if you have never been hurt, and Dance as if no one is watching.”

“We are proud of you, say we are proud of you.”

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 I have to say that this getting older thing is not easy. Sure, I still feel like a teenager, but it seems like overnight I have become high maintenance. There is something so unjust about applying both zit cream and wrinkle cream at night! Seriously! Not too long ago I was walking by a window outside a store. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a lady whose hair was in dire need of a color job. I know I shouldn’t judge others, but, well, I wasn’t. The lady was my reflection! Wow. That was a humbling experience. At times I seem to focus on all the negatives. I feel like an issue of “National Geographic,” with mudslides on my legs, as well as veins that look like a road map. And let’s not forget the way my body can change climates at the drop of a hat, and while others are freezing, I’m enjoying my own personal summer experience. Some days I feel like I look okay, and other days I feel as if I look like a busted open can of biscuits. I try to eat healthy, and I’ve gotten better at this sense I don’t eat gluten, but it’s still so hard. It seems as if I’ve worried my entire life about what I should or shouldn’t eat, and to be honest, it’s exhausting. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you are what you eat, I want to eat a skinny person.” It seems so shallow to write about appearance and the amount of time it takes to keep myself maintained, but it is part of the journey. The journey of learning to love yourself, always and anyway.

If I could have one thing said about me, it would be that I have class. That I could be comfortable with kings or paupers. “Everyone is comfortable with the person who has class because that person is comfortable with himself.” ~Ann Landers I always thought my ascent into 50 would be classy and epic. A few days before the “big day,” I was at a banquet, and I had really been concentrating on my posture. I could almost hear my mother saying, “Stand up straight and hold your stomach in and shoulders back.” I was sashaying across the room to go through the buffet line, almost as if I was walking down a runway, feeling confident and sassy. As I walked, I felt a slight breeze on my right leg. When the wind continued to flow up my leg, I reached back and touched my leg, and to my horror, my dress had rolled up into the bottom part of my Spanx. Yes, I’m a Spanx wearer and proud of it. In fact, I think I invented Spanx years ago when I started cutting the legs out of my hose so I could wear them under pants in order to avoid panty lines. Fortunately, during my scandalous wardrobe malfunction, I wasn’t being “bootylicious” but the bottom of my dress was tucked very neatly into the leg of my Spanx, and I looked like a hot mess. I frantically yanked the dress out and continued my walk down the runway, thinking I need to put my big girl Spanx on and deal with it! Thankfully, I love to laugh at myself and the comedy that is my life. I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and God doesn’t concentrate on my flaws, but I’m sure He even got a good laugh out of that freak show!

“Keep that spirit up, hey, keep that spirit up.”

Quit trying to sit at the “cool kids’ table.” If I have learned anything over the last 50 years, it is to be real. To be who I am all the time, and not try to be a pleaser or act fake. I’ve gotten so good at this that sometimes I come across as smug or arrogant because I simply can’t “play the game” and rather than join in a conversation that is actually gossip, I just stare into space. These times are rare because I still do genuinely care about others’ feelings, but I will not sacrifice my beliefs or who I am in order to gain status or to be included.

I have to say that I enjoy social media such as Facebook, but as many things as I like about it, there are that many more that absolutely drive me crazy! My biggest complaint is the “Like” button. Yes, I click on it a lot, but at times, it seems that some people like everything. One day, the same person “liked” something about the President, and on another post, which was dealing with the same issue but took a negative point of view this person “liked” it as well. The worst thing about the “Like” button is when someone posts something terrible, such as a relative who is sick, or has died and people “Like” this. Usually, the post will ask for prayer, and I’m sure that is what they are “liking” but it still drives me crazy. I’m sure I’m guilty of this far more than I’m aware, but in certain situations I do try to refrain from clicking on “Like,” and instead write a comment. It’s okay not to “LIKE” everything. I’m sure, at this point, I sound like Andy Rooney so let me just say this. At this time in my life, I need to be more involved and vocal in issues that matter. Instead of complaining about things, I need to come up with a solution or work to make a change. I need to be true to my convictions and not hesitate to stand up for what I believe is right. It’s time to stop worrying about sitting with the cool kids, or whether or not I am liked. It’s about being respected for being true to myself and for somehow, every day, doing something to make a difference in the world in which we live.

Several years ago, I was in a meeting with a parent and several other educators, and this parent flippantly stated that “We all never recover from high school, from being fat or nerdy or unpopular. We are permanently scarred and spend our life trying to recover from the abuse.” Part of me thinks she said this to be funny because she spent much of the meeting dropping one-liners and zingers, but as the meeting went on, I could tell that she used her humor as a defense mechanism to mask some pain from long ago. Maybe she did still carry scars from “mean girls” who called her names or didn’t include her, but weren’t we all labeled in high school? Weren’t we all identified by what we did, or who we were or what we looked like? Maybe it took some of us longer to figure out that each of us was “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal,” but hopefully we moved on past the stereotype and used whatever hurts were inflicted on us to become better people. In Jimmy Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks at 40,” he is reflecting on a life that he can never have because in his words, he was 200 years too late. Unlike the pirate, the cheerleader in me can live on to cheer another day. And you can bet I will.

“Ready? Hit it.”

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