Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pom Poms, Sneakers, and Bleachers

You wouldn't have guessed it, but I was a cheerleader in high school. It didn't happen by accident. From the time my sister and I were about eight or nine years old, we had our own gymnastics studio in the basement of our house. Mind you, it was a concrete basement, including the floor. We would pile empty cardboard boxes one by one until one of us crashed into them as we made the headlong leap over them. Obviously, we had created a cushioned landing area. We would make our own balance beam, and hope we didn't fall. We never did. We couldn't afford gymnastic lessons, even if they had been available. So, we would watch gymnastics on TV every chance we could, and try to mimic what the real gymnasts were doing.  We taught ourselves to do flips and backbends, and all unnatural means of bodily contortions. I believe it was the simple fact I could do a backbend that earned me a spot on the cheer squad.

That was almost thirty years ago. I remember then I had always wished I could be a player on the court. However, my history and knowledge was not in playing the game, but in dance and gymnastics. That's the general rule for life and career. You get what you prepare yourself for.
Today, I wear sneakers of a different kind. I'm a doer. My history has prepared me through education - formal and informal, - and through experience. In high school, I studied hard and graduated at the top of my class. In college, I studied hard and graduated with honors the first time. The second time I was more interested in the learning than the GPA. I still graduated with a 3.0+.

Life has prepared me for a transformation I never expected. Although I was intelligent, strong-willed, and independent, I was lost to the purpose and function of my life. That said, I made some categorically tragic errors in judgment. Again, you get what you prepare yourself for - choose wisely.  I should note that I have never been and am not an alcoholic or drug addict. My categorical tragic errors in judgment stemmed from a need to be liked, and gaining the approval of others to validate my own worth - for better or worse.

Through trial and error, I learned that if you want to play with the big kids you have to put your sneakers on and get out on the court. You have to do this with the full knowledge you will make mistakes - just like everyone else. If you drop the ball and fall on your face, you have to get up and keep playing.

The trick is to make sure you are on the right team. Characteristics of the right team include: group effort, everyone has everyone else's back, there are no star players, and trust is an integral part of the team. If you find you are on the wrong team, then you have to find a team that is right for you. You get what you have prepared yourself for, are you prepared to compromise, support the successes of others, while assisting the bad plays by teammates?

I'm at the end of the third quarter of the game, and preparing myself to sit on the bleachers to watch the next team take over the court. I didn't expect this. Sitting on the bleachers is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Anyone over the age of forty understands what I am talking about. We want to be in the game. We want our ideas and voices to be heard, and at the same time long for the rest the bleachers offer.

I didn't know what my purpose in life was until about a year ago. The whole of my life has 
prepared me for my purpose that didn't really arrive until the third quarter of the game arrived. I didn't see it at first. My focus was on the game. I was in the thick of the battle of winning and losing. Exhaustion and burn-out overtook my normal enthusiasm. The thrill of the game was no longer enough to satisfy my tired mind. I would look with envy at those who were already firmly seated on the bleachers.

In the midst of all of this, inspiration took over to write the Chrysalis series. I had already taken the plunge once in publishing, so it wasn't a real stretch for me. More often than not, my mind would be in the middle of the story plot than the game.

Where you find peace, you find your purpose. For me, the culmination of my purpose will be met on the bleachers. When the time comes, I will still shake my pom poms for the team, but my sneakers will be retired and replaced by a nice cushioned seat on the bleachers.