Full disclosure: I was a cheerleader.
The year was 2008. I was employed through work study in the athletic department's laundry room. You washed sweaty football jerseys, watched a little Mad TV, and got back to your dorm room by 9PM. A simple gig.
One evening my supervisor stops in and says he heard some of the girls on the volleyball team were planning on trying out for cheerleading, and asks if I was one of them. In my then sarcastic fashion I gave a slow nod with a half grin and a "S-u-r-e I am" reply. My boss said, "Great!", opening the door wider to reveal his wife, who unbeknownst to me was the head cheering coach.
Not having the heart to say my immediate thought of "Oh dear, I was just kidding", I mustered up, "What time are tryouts?". I like putting myself into uncharted territory, and seeing as I had never as much as done a cartwheel (it's a long way down to try such a dangerous feat, when you're a foot taller than all your third grade counterparts), I was confident I'd be asked to leave before the first water break. The section of the tryout I remember most vividly was being asked to tumble, following back handsprings. This girl did a somersault, as I had picked up from rolling out of a volleyball dig, ending it with spirit fingers (thank you/shout out to the movie "Bring it On").
I made the team...and Not because of my makeshift tumbling skills. Turns out the girl who I replaced from the previous season had broken her neck, and spent the semester rocking a neck brace on campus. Cue: foreshadowing for my own medical stabilization device. During the cheering season I met some of the most genuine, courageous, and beautiful ladies. They were caring, intelligent, and super supportive.
I am strong, and at that time I worked out daily. So, one practice my fearless flyer pulled me aside to say, she grew up cheering with strong guys shooting her high up in the air. She knew I could give more power and she requested that I send her up to the ceiling. After the count off, "1, 2. 3, 4. 5, 6. 7,8." she was launched higher than ever before and in slow motion I looked to either side of me to see the other girls who were positioned to catch her with me, with jaws dropped like a cartoon. Good news: I caught her. Bad news: I was the only one, and my nose fractured as a result.
The moral of this story, "You will discover that there are many others who appreciate you because you are willing to let go of any inhibition." For the subsequent practices I wore a plastic mask to protect my face as it healed. I will never forget stretching, in a split that was achievable many moons (& 2 babies) ago, and hearing one of my teammates say how she respected how I was unashamed to wear the face gear and that she was inspired to have the same level of confidence one day.
MYRetreat Ladies, be your true self...unapologetically.