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It’s Not the Same as it Was


Thirty years ago, I was a cheerleader. I’m not so sure what I am today. As I pull out the spandex from the drawer, I try to remember: why am I doing this? 

I convince myself that I already committed, and I have to pick up the girls from dance, so…just go.

Dressed and in the car, I turn up my Bruno Mars and convince myself that I will be a good participant. Tell myself, just don’t pull or pop anything. Stay safe.

I arrive, park and as I’m walking into the studio, here comes my daughter and her friends. Why am I embarrassed? They say, “Is your mom really taking the hip hop class?” I walk on, semi-ignoring the chatter, go in the lobby and register. I walk into the small dance studio. It’s stuffy. Excited chatter fills the room. 

As I stand in front of the mirror, I second guess my clothing choice. Why the camo? Mirrors are always telling. They tell you who you are to other people, how you are percieved. They show you what your body can do. They hide nothing. I lose a couple of minutes thinking about who is staring back at me. 

The stuffy room starts to fill up with nervous, loud women. I blankly stare back at myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” Again. I convince myself  to stay. I don’t smile. 

The petite, pretty instructor starts to play Justin Bieber. Since when is The Bieb hip hop? I am in shock – am I really this old? I think where is Tupac, Mary J, and Biggie? Is this class going to mimic the artist? Why am I here? Did I miss a whole generation of hip hop?

As we start stretching, I realize I wore the wrong thing. Vulnerable and not in my optimum shape, I think just keep going. I feel …not small.

As the instructor starts teaching us the steps, I fall into old habits, and it feels good. The moves, the flow, the music starts to inhabit my brain. I zone in on the learning, and the other women start to drift away from my peripheral. 

I learn the first eight count, and though it’s not yet my style of hip hop, I hold out hope for the future moves. I kick, hop, jump clap, and things are moving that haven’t moved in a while. I see glimpses of skin in the mirror, my own skin and think, “What have I worn?”

As the second eight count is rolled out, I realize I’m actually doing the thing. I’m getting it done. And there’s this thing that happens when I learn. I feel…better? Good? I’m not sure how to explain what it is, but my view changes. I lose the hyper critical lense. I see my worth. 

I do not execute the two eight counts with grace or the attitude of the perky instructor, but I do throw in my flare. It feels right. It feels good. 

When I did this so long ago, I did it better. I was good. Does that matter tonight?

Every count that goes by, I get a little more loose, a little more confident. I am now able to look at myself in the mirror, and assess my movement. Not bad. Not perfect, but not bad.

I turn to a person in the class who asks for help and chat, showing her a move. I wonder if I’m telling her the right thing, but I also embrace the moment of knowing. 

As the minutes tick by and I’m moving to the beat, I realize I needed this. I know I did right by myself in showing up and learning new things. 

I don’t get it perfect every time. I keep trying. I’m laughing – at myself, at the mistakes. I’m having fun. 

The instructor tells us two more times. We whip through each movement, forcing confidence where there is none. We’re all laughing now; we’ve bonded over our broken rhythm and trepidatious steps. 

By the end, I’ve changed. The room has changed. I feel the sweat on my brow and neck and I realize I actually worked harder than I thought. 

The energy is good. We draw it from each other, the music and the movement. 

In the end, we did a thing. We learned together. In all our vulnerability and self-doubt, we faced some fears and followed a dream. 

Thirty years ago, I was a cheerleader.

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  • J

    JennNov 10, 2023 at 1:00 PM

    Love this! ❤️