Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I have been thinking about tomorrow, February 29th for a while now, and honestly I am dreading it. Besides the fact that it is a Monday and everyone dreads Mondays, it is going to be a really strange day for me.
Tomorrow I cheer my last game at UNC. Meaning I am one step closer to completely ending my career as a cheerleader forever.
To give you a little background for the magnitude of the above statements, I began cheerleading at age 4. The rec program in my hometown did not accept athletes until they were 5, but my mom begged the coach, I shed some tears and they let me in. Since that day, I have not gone a single day without being a cheerleader marking 18 years altogether. I went through the normal progression of recreational cheer, middle school team, plus one year of competitive, high school and now college. So I do not really remember a time where I was not a cheerleader.
But that moment is approaching quickly, too quickly.
Clearly I have always been drawn to the sport, and it was a point of motivation for me to pursue competitive gymnastics for 9 years (which I too found a passion for) in order to secure that I would have enough skills to make the varsity team in high school as a freshmen. I made that goal when I was 6. From then on I filled my weeks with countless hours of gymnastics practice, cheer practice, tumbling class and games year round, never giving my family or myself a break. But for me that was exactly how I wanted to spend my time, and I am beyond thankful that my parents supported it.
To say I have loved every second of this journey with cheerleading would be a lie. I often explain it to people as a love hate relationship.
Prior to college cheerleading was a hobby and the sport that I excelled at! I pushed myself so hard in the gym to learn and perfect new skills, both as a team and individually, many things that my peers or audience would never see. But it did not matter to me that most people would never understand the the sport I loved and the talent I had been gifted with, because conquering fears and mastering skills gave me a thrill I never wanted to lose. My experience with this sport taught me about self-discipline, teamwork, confidence, perseverance, enthusiasm, overcoming adversity, mental and physical strength and so much more.
On the contrary, cheerleading is hard. It sometimes frustrates me to my core. It is a sport based around appearances, which is quite frankly just plain shallow. Because of this, there have been times when I have felt unloved, too flawed, inadequate, pressure to conform, angry, judged, judged and judged some more, etc. There were most definitely times in my life were I made cheerleading an idol. I have been guilty of placing too much importance on cheerleading and therefore let it determine my self-worth and value. Like many other cheerleaders, I made numerous sacrifices such as skipping a senior prom, missing social gatherings and vacations, working my body until it will forever be injured because it all seemed worth it. This is slightly embarrassing, but I even prayed harder for things involving cheerleading than anything else in my life.
Oftentimes I have questioned whether the good really out weighs the bad. Finding the balance can be hard and it did not get any easier in college. Instead cheerleading became my job, a responsibility that carried a heavy weight. At times it lost some of the fun, but do not worry I found it again!
The joy that I have experienced throughout my cheerleading journey rose above everything else which led me to choose this athletic path year after year.
Cheerleading has been one of the most constant things in my life; while the teams, atmospheres and situations changed the sport was always present. But soon it won’t be and I am honestly terrified of that. What emotions will I feel? Remember back to the first post I wrote, I am not a feelings person so makes me all the more nervous. Am I going to feel sadness, relief, peace, apathetic, excitement for a new stage of life or emptiness because I am losing such a large part of me? Will I experience an identity crisis? Maybe I will feel a mixture of all these emotions at some point, but who knows. All I know is that I am hopeful that I became a cheerleader because I am an encourager and not the reverse that way when this chapter fully closes I can be known as “Carly the encourager of life,” not just “Carly the Cheerleader.”
Know that when or if you say goodbye to something that once helped make you into the person you are, it is NOT all that you are!
My mom called a few hours ago and said “Tomorrow will be bittersweet won’t it?” I know many of my teammates and their families are feeling the same way. But yes, bittersweet seems fitting for now.
Spread contagious Joy & Laughter.