We Try Harder!


When I was in tenth grade, I was a cheerleader for one season. I wasn’t a very good cheerleader (thus, the reason that I was only a cheerleader for one season). I think I only got in because I was really good at writing cheers. And I was kind of spunky. But I was also a little chunky and couldn’t jump very high, so I was always paranoid about people lifting me. And I feared the mini-trampoline. I’d run super fast up to the trampoline, then come to a dead halt. To make up for it, I’d raise my arms high in a “Ta da!” motion and act like that was supposed to be the trick. I don’t think anyone bought it.
Most cheerleaders cheer for football and basketball games. Not me. They made me…a wrestling cheerleader. Now I loved the wrestlers, don’t get me wrong (I ended up being a wrestling manager for two years in high school and one year in college), but when you think of cheerleading, wrestling isn’t a sport that you traditionally see perky girls on the sidelines for. (“Take down, take down…for TWO!”)
So it was no surprise, that at the end of the season, when we had our cheerleading banquet and they were handing out the spirit awards, when it came to me, they gave me the AVIS (OR #2 AWARD). That’s actually what it said on the certificate. “Because you always try harder.” This was a play on the old Avis ads that were popular at the time. It might have been funny for Avis, but it was kind of f***ed up for a young girl who already had low self-esteem. So right then, in 1978, I was branded with the label of #2. I’d never be #1. I’d always be #2. And don’t let anybody fool you; that stuff follows you for the rest of your life.
What they did get right was that I always DID try harder. My whole life. Through college, through adulthood, through comedy through radio. I was never afraid to go for something. Yet, very seldom did I make it to #1. But I’d get up and always try again.
Tonight, I’m hours away from finding out if I got something that I really, really want. Something I entered, tried for, jumped in head first – poured my whole heart into. History tells me not to get too excited, because we know how this movie ends. It happened with my book. I won one competition, but another that my heart bled for, I didn’t even come in third. I cried for three days vowing I’d never put myself out there again.
But I did. And here I am now trying to muster up all of the creative visualization that I can, but all I can hear in the background is:
“You’re #2! You’re #2!”
I picture myself in the 11th grade, walking toward the crowd gathered around the signs the cheerleading coach taped on the wall for the cheerleaders for the following year’s football season. Would I see my name? I don’t see it under G…maybe it’s under L. I can hear the screams coming from the girls who made it, while others slink away from the pack, wiping tears from their cheeks with the sleeves of their sweaters.
I’m trying to visualize my name on the paper tomorrow. On the email or the website or wherever they’re posting it. And if I don’t see my name, then what? Do I Avis myself back under my covers? Or do I get up and say, hey, I’ll try again.
I mean, I’m 55. I should be happy that I still have it in me to try for things. That I still have the chutzpah to go for it. We should all continue to strive throughout our lives. Try until you die, right? Maybe that’s the tattoo I’ll finally get. I think that would look really great in a nice, big Old English font. Hidden under my cheerleading skirt, straight across my backside.
Meanwhile, I’m going to try to sleep tonight. And attempt to balance my thoughts somewhere between “You got it you didn’t get it.” Fearful to jinx what lies ahead even though the outcome is already determined.
Sweet anticipation.
Just like the Oscars and the Emmys and the GRAMMYs and the Tonys – everyone’s still a winner the night before the big show.

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