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Slices of Life: More than a cheerleader

"If I had it to do all over again, I’d try to see people as people. I’d try to see everyone as worthwhile and let them know it. I’d practice the opposite of high school popularity (because I never really was popular) and embrace the geek that I really was," writes Jill Pertler.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler
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Confession: I was a cheerleader back in the day. It was a fun time for me. Really fun. And that’s all it was. Fun. Well, that and I got to meet some cute wrestlers.

Slices of Life: Fingerprints in the mirror

I guess at the time it helped me fit in, but don’t we all need to find a way to fit in during high school? I did my best to enjoy it. I believe I was lucky — to have a rather easy go of it, but it wasn’t always easy. It was often stressful. Trying to fit in all of the time — like is expected in high school — is seldom easy, even for the coolest of the cool. And not many feel content and confident in that group.

Confession: I hardly ever felt cool in high school, but I learned to smile and fake it when I didn’t. I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

From my perspective.

I enjoyed a class reunion this summer. People have matured — in the best of ways — over the years. I hope me included. Still, so many of my old (and now new) friends defined me as a cheerleader. It’s been decades since I threw out my pom poms but it seemed some of my high school classmates still envisioned me wearing the school colors and singing the fight song.


It caused me to pause.

I really enjoyed the pom poms all those years ago, but I’ve done so much since then. I’ve experienced life — marriage, children and grands. I’ve become a writer of sorts. I never dreamed cheerleading could still define me.

Apparently it did. It does, in some peoples’ eyes.

That makes me a little sad. (No disrespect meant toward those friends who still think of me as a cheerleader, those who are currently cheerleaders, those who may aspire to being a cheerleader, or those who at one point in time knew a cheerleader.)

Honestly I’m so much more. We all are.

Aren’t we?

We get defined by what we do, or what we believe in or how we worship or myriad other things that can be objectified and judged by our cultural norms.

I was a cheerleader in high school. But if I had it to do over, you know what?


I’d still be a cheerleader, but I’d do it a little differently.

I’d still be friends with those people I connected with on a heart level. Many of those were cheerleaders, but I’d also get to know the people who didn’t have a conveniently cool label.

I’d seek out the interesting people. Those with a short description on the senior summary page. Those who didn’t necessarily play the premium sports or have pom poms in their locker.

I’d talk to everyone, because everyone matters. I’d reach out. I’d do more because I could have at the time. I wish I would have. I think I may have tried to, but I can’t remember. It’s been too many years. I hope I was kind in high school, but know I could have been even kinder.

If I had it to do all over again, I’d try to see people as people. I’d try to see everyone as worthwhile and let them know it. I’d practice the opposite of high school popularity (because I never really was popular) and embrace the geek that I really was.

I was a cheerleader. I really enjoyed the experiences it allowed me. I met some great friends because of it. I gained athletic prowess because of it. It gave me much. But in my heart, in my soul, it was but a sliver of my entire being.

I can’t go back and have a do-over at high school or life. I only hope to learn from my past and make better of my future. I was a cheerleader, and maybe I was drawn to that role. Maybe I can (and should) find a new set of metaphorical pom poms and cheer on those good people in my life who need cheering right now (and who amongst us doesn’t?).

Maybe building others up, builds me (and you and us) up as well.


Hip, hip, hurray!

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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