When I was in grade school I really wanted to be on the cheerleading team. I also wished that I had blonde hair along with a perfect tan. Instead I was a brunette, with a pinkish tan, highlights from being in the pool too much, and a bad perm. Everyone was welcome to audition for the cheerleading team so I signed up. I immediately began to visualize myself in the velvet blue mini skirt and banana yellow t-shirt as I shouted out the perfect cheer for my school! Just like the movies I had seen, I would become one of the most popular cheerleaders who everyone wanted to be friends with, not to mention capturing the hunk of the school, who, was yes in the grade above me.
I went to the cheerleading tryouts’. I had personally taken the time to choreograph a special routine. By the time I had finished my piece there was only silence in the gym. I could tell by the look on their faces that my movie dream was over. After what seemed like an overly dramatic pause, one of the coaches brought her self to say with a smile, ‘thank you for that…Jessica.’
As I made my way out of the gym, I saw a sign up sheet on the bulletin board for the skipping team. I thought it seemed like fun and I put my name down. The meeting for the skipping team was two days later, and because I showed up, I was automatically on the team. We immediately began practicing. Shortly there after we received our uniforms, invitations to perform at basketball/volleyball tournaments, and we even toured around to different schools with full routines timed out to a mixed tape that our coach had put together.
At some point in the year I did actually get asked to come and stand in for one of the cheerleaders at a basketball game. I was so bored, my skirt was too tight, I didn’t want to be there, and I wondered how/why the movies had made this look like so much fun. What I thought I wanted was in fact not what I wanted at all. I realized that through all of the films I watched as a kid, the characters I identified with were the ones who were the misfits who strummed along to their own beat.
The reason so many of us love those films is because those actors brought their authentic selves to their individual roles. They were vulnerable, messy, graceful, klutzy, strong, funny, and regardless of how they were, we loved them for it. Because they show their truth, we stand by ours, and we feel like we belong.
The stories that we need to tell are own stories. No other person can share our stories like we can. Our knowledge, life experience, who I am and who you are, is what makes our work authentic. There is no one other than me or you and what we have to bring to the table is, yes, that important. It is what makes our storytelling different from anyone elses. Don’t wait. Make the jump. Give yourself the invitation. That is the most important one.