Originally Written on September 28, 2019
The first time I really felt like I belonged somewhere was on the cheerleading team in grade 9. Prince Arthur Junior High Knights. I did two years cheerleading there grade 8–9. I didn’t initially audition, or try out, for my grade 7 year because I was really short and really fat and really awkward and I danced all the time but I wasn’t really good. I didn’t love myself I guess. Bring it on had just come out and all the cool popular girls were going. They did tryouts at the end of grade 6 before going into grade 7. We had junior high 7,8,9 and I didn’t have a way to get from the elementary school to the junior high for the tryouts. I never in a million years would have thought to ask someone because what if they laughed at me or thought I was ridiculous for wanting to try that. So I didn’t.
Then in grade 7 I was on the dance team. Basically there was no audition you just went and you got on if you could commit to the couple hours a week I guess. So I did that. We had a school assembly or something at the end of the year and the cheerleaders did a routine. I was thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life. Then the dance team went and I was like ugh. I was really embarrassed about these frilly sequined leg cuffs I had to wear. Anyway we do our routine. I’m feeling pretty good about it I know I’m a good mover if nothing else. Still round and short and uncomfortable. It was good I guess. Anyway then they announce after that they’re holding auditions. Sorry. I keep saying auditions, tryouts for the next year’s cheerleading team. I’m like you know what? This time I’m gonna do it. I’m really gonna do it.
So I go to all the rounds of auditions. There’s jumping involved, there’s lifting involved. There’s working out involved. I’m not good at any of those things. I wasn’t too sure how it was going to go but I just tried my very best and was like, okay I’m going to be part of this. I made it. After two rounds of cuts I made it on the team. My best friend Rachael, at the time, and Laura auditioned with me. Laura didn’t make the first cut and Rachel made it on the team. I was like this is amazing. The two of us are going to do this together. It’s so cool. I can’t believe I get to be a cheerleader. It’s going to be so awesome.
Within like the first couple weeks of being back at school Rachael was like “I’m not doing that”. I was heartbroken because I didn’t know anyone else on the team so I had to do it alone. But you know what I’m still going to do this, I made it this far, and I really want to do it. So I did it.
I had a really awkward time. Everyone was cooler than me. They were wearing thongs and I was like “wow is that what you do when you’re on the cheerleading team?” Everyone had their legs shaved and I hadn’t really done that yet, I was like 13. So before practices on Sunday mornings I would sneak downstairs in our living room with a bowl of hot water and one of my dad’s razors and I would shave my legs. In secret.
I made it on the team and I was really in over my head. I didn’t know what to expect. I was a back up. Not quite on the team. There are about 20 people who compete on the floor then there’s subs or replacements if someone gets injured or can’t do a competition. So I was in that group of people. I forget what happened but somehow I made it into the group of people who get to compete.
We had our first competition in Truro. It was exciting and I was super nervous. The routines are like 2 minutes and 30 seconds so it’s not a long time but it also feels like forever. You’re nervous and you want to nail it and you’re literally lifting humans in the air for points. You want to dance and cheer and all this stuff. Anyway. On the team. On the floor. Doing cheerleading. Ecstatic. Am I great? Absolutely not. Am I trying my best? Yes. So this goes on all of grade 8 all of grade 9.
By the end of grade 9 I had bonded with a few people on the team still feeling kind of like an outsider, kind of did my own thing. Was pretty sure I was going to keep going in high school. At the end of grade 9 we had our last junior high competition and it goes well, we did our best. I can’t remember if we won or not to be honest. To celebrate we all decided to go to the Steak and Stein, yes that’s right the Steak and Stein.
I forget why I didn’t go with everyone right away but I had to join later. I got to Steak & Stein and everyone was already sitting at the tables. I was fully prepared to grab a chair and tag it on to the end which still feels like a huge metaphor for my life. I get there and they’re like “ Sam, Sam we saved you a seat, we saved you a seat right over here”. I honestly cried. I couldn’t believe that I had been someone that they saved a seat for so it felt incredible but also overwhelming. It felt like the first time that had ever happened to me in my life. I just couldn’t believe they would save a seat for me. Which sounds crazy because people save seats for people all the time. I save seats for people all the time! But it was one of the first times that I was like “Wow, they see me” I felt like I belonged in that moment and I was really thankful for it.
As time went on with the team I became closer with certain people but not everyone. It wasn’t always perfect and there were for sure people who didn’t get along. Overall it pushed me into a space where I was like “Hey I can take ownership over this and I get to be a part of this and I’m important. They want me to be here”. Which is not a way I felt any where else. I was never really good at anything I was just okay at everything. At home I felt like I worked there because I did. There was a certain expectation of me. I had that moment and felt so much like I fully belonged. Like I was meant to be there, I was wanted, I was accepted and it felt so good.
I don’t know if there’s another moment that really strikes me so much as feeling like I belonged until maybe when I got into The Sktechersons. Even that might be a stretch to feel it the same way. I will never forget that moment in Steak and Stein the shittiest of restaurants where my aunt Bev worked when I was growing up. That is the space in my head that is so connected to feeling a sense of belonging. I’m thankful for that moment. I don’t talk to most of those people anymore but my fragile little weirdo, roundy self is incredibly thankful that that happened.