Taking Risks

Obviously, I’m a big believer in pursuing dreams. I encourage my own children to pursue their passions and set goals for reaching those dreams. At one point, my son wanted to be a director. I encouraged him, gave him tools that would help him. Eventually, that dream faded. And that’s okay. I’ve seen sparks of it coming back to life. Some dreams fade. Some dreams change and morph. Some grow more intense.

When I was a kid my dream was to be a Highlandette, which was my high school’s dance/drill team. I would march around my house as an eight-year-old, kicking my skinny legs and smiling wide just like a high-stepping Highlandette. I remember going to the football games with my family on Friday nights and watching the Highlandettes march out onto the field during half time. I dreamed I’d one day march onto the field wearing that red starched skirt and white boots and the audience would stand and cheer.

For many years I took dance and started teaching at my local dance studio when I entered high school. So I was well prepared when the time came to try out for Highlandettes at the end of my sophomore year. For two weeks we practiced after school, learning the routines. The tryout was in two phases. Cuts would be made, then another tryout for the selection of 55 girls who would be the next group of Highlandettes.

I made it through the first cut. But some of my friends didn’t. They were crying, and I was rattled. Before I’d dried my own tears and finished hugging those who had been cut, I was called to start the next phase of the tryout. My heart was back in the locker room with my friends. Suddenly I couldn’t remember the routine. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I marched out of the gym, knowing I hadn’t made the team. I was heartbroken.

For days I cried. My mother said, “Get over it.” And maybe I should have. But during the next year, I learned a valuable lesson. One week I would think, “I’m not going to try out again. No way.” But then I’d see my friends who were now Highlandettes performing, I’d remember my dream, and I’d change my mind. I did want to be a Highlandette. But I was afraid. I was afraid I’d fail again and there would be no other chance. Slowly over the year, I came to the realization that it was my last chance to become a Highlandette, and a solid determination formed inside me.

The end of my junior year in high school, I started the two weeks of learning the routines. It was during one of those practices that I pulled my hamstring. It’s very hard to do a high kick routine with a pulled hamstring. But I pampered my leg, wrapped it well, and kept focused on my goal.

Nothing was going to distract me. Nothing. So the day of the tryouts, I prayed, “Please, God, no matter what happens, let me be satisfied with my performance.” You see, during the last year, that’s what had eaten a hole in my heart, knowing I hadn’t done my best in the final tryout. I didn’t want to have any regrets. I wanted to give it my all.

All these many years later, the lessons I learned during my last two years of high school have become almost a mantra for me in the pursuit of my dream of writing. You see, I learned to focus on my goal. I’m talking laser focus. And I learned to never give up that dream. Hang onto it, nurture it, go for it with everything you have.

Well, I suppose you’re wondering how that tryout turned out. I will say that I marched out of the gym with a smile on my face. I was proud of my performance. I could live with that. No matter what. The next day, when I drove to the high school to await the names being posted in the school’s windows, I held my breath. Four posters were taped to the windows at exactly 2:00pm. I scanned each one, but my name wasn’t there.

Even though my heart was sinking fast, I lifted my chin, determined to be proud of my performance anyway, and I turned to leave, stopping to congratulate my friends who had made the team. Then, a girl named Cindy called my name. She hugged me. She was crying and smiling. I could feel my heart breaking because I knew she had made the team. But she kept hugging me, looking at me strangely. My brain slowly clicked into what she was saying, “You made it!”

“No,” I told her. “My name’s not up there.”

So together we looked at the posters. “No,” she said, “down here.”

I hadn’t seen the fifth poster in the last window. And there it was – my name – I was a Highlandette. The first of many of my dreams had come true.

I bet you have a dream too. Reaching a dream isn’t easy. It demands focus and giving you’re all. But it also requires you not to give up, to take risks. So hang on, try again, keep trying until you see that dream become a reality.

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