When I was in eighth grade, the older sister of a good friend was a high-school cheerleader. She was beautiful and energetic and joyful, and several of us could think of nothing else but how to perfect our jumps, yell with spirit and keep our arms straight during routines. I was pretty good at straight arms and spirited yells, but no matter how much I practiced, my jumps rarely got more than six inches off the ground and my cartwheels looked like a crab at a ninety-degree angle. Still I was confident my positive attributes would make up for my lack of acrobatic ability.
After tryouts we all went home to our respective houses to await “the call.” After an hour I still had hope. I had hope even after one or two of my friends called to say they’d made the squad. But as the evening wore on and it was apparent my phone wouldn’t ring, I went to my room and pulled the covers over my head. Actually I’m not sure I remember exactly what I did, but it was probably something like that. I had worked hard. I had practiced and memorized routines and even improved my jumps (though I never could do a cartwheel). And I still hadn’t made the team.
I tried out the next year and the year after that. Finally in eleventh grade I learned about drill team. This was a group of 24 girls who did choreographed routines to pop songs while marching and shaking red and gold pom poms. Although you had to have a certain amount of spirit, there was no cart-wheeling, jumping or yelling. I had rhythm and bounce and, miraculously, a bit of self-confidence. Not only did I make the team in eleventh grade, but I made other dear friends. The following year I was nominated captain. I could have given up, I could have decided performing wasn’t for me, could have stayed under the covers.
Rejection is hard and I’ve received heaps more than my fair share. I have manuscripts on that high closet shelf. But I also have one on submission and one in the works. Because that’s what writers do. Stand tall, practice, perfect their jumps.