“If A Train Doesn’t Stop At Your Station, Then It’s Not Your Train.” – Marianne Williamson
When I was in 8th grade, I was terrified of the 4 years of high school that lay ahead of me.
I was very comfortable in my little public grade school that was right across the street from my home, tucked away in the middle of a new subdivision, surrounded by lakes and trees.
I had gone to school with all of my classmates since the second grade. I knew them; they knew me; I could be myself and I felt safe there. The idea of moving to the enormous high school 5 miles away, spending every day with those hundreds, probably even thousands of students was horrifying to me.
When my class went to visit the high school and I got a taste of what life would be like there, I panicked. I went straight home and told my mom that I would rather go to the smaller, private Catholic school that my brother went to. We aren’t Catholic, but he went there for the athletic opportunities and I decided that even if it meant leaving all my friends behind, none of with whom I was super close with anyway, I would feel better if my brother was at the same school I was.
(That makes me laugh a bit now because I think I must have TRULY been desperate if I thought my brother was going to make things better. I love him, but let’s just say we were not close as teenagers.)
My mom, who was clueless about any of my insecurities or anxiety because I never talked about them and she just wasn’t “that kind of mom” who would care, seemed puzzled by my fears of the “Big School”, but said that if I didn’t want to go there, I didn’t have to.
So the next year, off to Catholic school I went.
However, things didn’t quite go as I thought they would.
It turns out that the kids at the Catholic high school didn’t exactly make me feel welcome.
I stood out like a sore thumb with my plaid uniform skirt that was down to my knees while all the other girls had theirs hemmed up to a cute 2 inches below their butts. I hadn’t had my braces yet so my teeth were a wreck. I didn’t have the “cool” uniform shoes that all the other girls had. I knew none of the Catholic prayers or teachings. I was a fish out of water and I knew nobody. With the exception of a few girls, wonderful Betsy and Kim, nobody really wanted much to do with me.
I spent lunches wandering around looking for a place to sit. The boys in my freshman class were not a nice group of guys. They made fun of me for looking like I had “never kissed a boy”. They stole my books and shoes from my locker on more than one occasion, causing my mom to have to shell out hundreds of dollars in replacement fees. She was a single mom back then so it was hard. And my brother? He was no help. My “security blanket” did nothing to help me fit in. In fact, he joined right in with the mocking because honestly, I think he was embarrassed by me. It was a really rough year.
But you know how it is when you are a teenager, and despite everything that was going on, I really wanted these kids to accept me. I knew that to stand any chance at fitting in at this school, I was going to have to make the cheerleading squad.
I was already planning to try out for cheerleading from day one, having spent the previous two years cheering at my safe little grade school with a great group of girls.
My dad had groomed me to become a cheerleader from a very young age with cheering classes and tumbling classes and he had every confidence in the world that I would continue on in the high school arena. He was a lifelong coach and my brother was an athlete and my dad was beyond thrilled at the idea of me cheering at the same school where my brother played basketball.
It might seem odd that a shy introvert like me would entertain the idea of becoming a cheerleader, but it was instilled in me at such a young age that it never occurred to me to NOT try to cheer. It made my dad so happy, and I actually enjoyed it, believe it or not so I just forgot about being shy and went out there and did it.
But at this point, I didn’t just want to be a cheerleader…I needed to be a cheerleader. Without that, I felt that I would always be the awkward girl who people made fun and that I would continue being miserable every day. I really felt like once I became a cheerleader, people would give me a chance.
The week of tryouts began and it was nothing like anything I had been through in grade school.
It was days of learning a complicated dance routine and cheers and jumps…much harder stuff than anything I had ever done before….even in my cheer classes. But I worked my butt off and I practiced day in and day out. When I want something bad enough, I work for it, and I did not stop until I had those routines and jumps nailed. It was one of the most nerve-wracking times of my life because I wanted this SO badly and I didn’t fit in with any of the other girls that were trying out with me. They all had their cliques and I was the only one in my “group” that didn’t know the other girls. I wasn’t going to anybody’s house after practice, to work on routines together. But I got through it somehow despite my constant stomach-ache and fears and worries.
Then the day of tryouts came and they had my group go up first.
My heart was pounding through my chest and I thought I was going to pass out at any minute, but do you know what I did?
I nailed it.
I did the dance routine perfectly. I did the cheer perfectly. And I did those jumps perfectly. I looked out at the judges and they were nodding their heads and smiling and one gave me a thumbs up and a wink as we walked off the stage. I was ELATED. I had held it together and all my hard work had paid off.
I watched the 9 or 10 other groups go through their tryouts and at the end, I knew I was in. I knew there was no way I was NOT in the top group of girls. There was no doubt in my mind. I was beyond excited.
But then….the unthinkable happened:
One of the judges said “Alright, we just need to see Group 1 go one more time.”
I can remember the feeling I felt when I heard those words as freshly as if it happened yesterday. I went straight into panic mode. I had thought I was a sure thing so I had let myself come out of that focused, competitive mindset that had gotten me through the first round and I had let myself relax. And when the judge said we had to do it again, my brain scrambled like eggs in a mixing bowl. I don’t even think I could have told you my name at that point. My group and I walked back onto the stage, and I froze. I couldn’t remember the routine. I couldn’t remember the cheer. It was a horrible, absolute nightmare and the icing on the cake was when I looked up and saw the judge who had previously given me the wink and the thumbs up, turn her pencil upside down and start erasing. I knew it was my card she was erasing.
Needless to say, I didn’t make the squad. I had choked. I blew it. I was devastated.
Walking out to my dad’s truck after the tryout was one of the hardest walks of my life. I knew he would be disappointed. I knew I had let him down. I opened up the passenger door and I could see his excited eyes as he said “How did it go?!?” and I saw the disappointed look in them when my eyes filled up with tears and I told him I didn’t make the squad. But bless that man because he never once made me feel bad for it. He put my feelings first and told me it was going to be okay and that it wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t really help though.
I finished out that school year and things never got better and I eventually went back to the public high school that I was originally supposed to go to. That didn’t really help matters much. High school was just not a great time in my life. But I survived.
I can’t tell you though, how many times I replayed that cheerleader tryout in my mind. I tried telling myself that maybe I wouldn’t have been picked anyway, even if I hadn’t had to go up the second time..but I never really believed that and still don’t to this day.
“If only they hadn’t called my group back to tryout again. Mine was the ONLY group to get called back. WHY? If that hadn’t happened, everything could have been different. I could have stayed at that school and they could have gotten to know me and I could have been a high school cheerleader. Why did I choke the way I did? How could I have done that?” The questions and the “If only’s” played on in my mind all of the time, especially in the beginning. They lessened over the years of course, but well into my adulthood I would think about that day from time to time and wonder what it would have been like if things had gone differently.
Thank the Lord that with age comes wisdom and now that I am 43 I can look back and see what a bullet I dodged that day.
My 43-year-old self is saying “I am SO glad I screwed up that day!” Pardon my language but those kids at that school were little assholes! Them not liking me was one of the greatest gifts of my life. Not that the kids at my next school were a whole lot better, but it was still an improvement.
If I had made the cheerleading squad I would have probably continued on at that school for the next 4 years and may actually have become “friends” with those people who were so mean that they would make a new, scared student feel miserable nearly every single day! I may actually have become “one of them”. Insecure kids, such as I was back then, do a lot of mean things in order to fit in. I had done some bratty things in grade school in order to “impress” other kids and who knows to what extent I would have gone to try to get those kids at this new school to like me. That school was also full of drugs and alcohol. A lot of high schools are, but I wanted so much to be “liked” at this school that I may have been tempted to try them in order to fit in. I am so glad things didn’t work out for me there!
If I had made the cheerleading squad, I might have never gone back to the public school and met my boyfriend who became my first husband, who turned out to be a really awful husband.
(If he is reading this, I feel kind of bad for saying that, but he knows its true. I had my faults too.)
If I had not majorly screwed up that day, I would never have divorced him and met my second husband who is exactly who I was supposed to end up with and who I now have all of my beautiful kids with. If I had not been called back for a second time on stage, I WOULD have made that squad. I know it. And my beautiful, perfect kids and this great life of mine that I love so much, despite how weary it makes me some days, would not exist.
My “Clarence” was up in heaven looking out for me that day, and I honestly think I was supposed to slip on some spilled water or something during that first round of tryouts and blow the whole thing, but something stopped the spill from happening so I never fell and I ended up acing the tryout. So then he had to come up with something fast to get my destiny back on track – and he had the judges call me back on stage with the hopes that I would be too rattled to perform.
You never know…..its possible! 🙂
I know its hard when something doesn’t happen the way you want it to. I know how much it hurts to hear the word “No” when all of your dreams are riding on the word “Yes”. But sometimes those things we really want, are not what are going to take us to the life we are meant to have.
When you hear the word “No”, always remember that the change in your course can lead to something amazing. The exciting part is that you don’t know WHERE it will lead.
When something doesn’t go my way, I am not going to pretend I don’t feel disappointed. But I know and I believe with all my heart that it simply wasn’t meant to be, and it always cheers me up when I remind myself that this was a step towards something else….. and I love not knowing what that something else is. I have no idea who I am going to be five years from now or where my life will take me but I know that every day and every thing that happens in that day is bringing me one step closer to it. I do the best I can to make positive, healthy choices so that compass keeps pointing North, but other than that I just kind of let go and enjoy watching it all play out!
The next time something happens that doesn’t go your way or breaks your heart, just remember that your future self is giving you a wink and a thumbs up – and its all part of the plan.
For information on how to handle let-downs and move on from disappointment, check out this article from IQMatrix.
Photo Credit: Train Station: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Waiting on Train Photos: Canstock