I am not a therapist here at Balance Health & Healing. In fact, I’m not a therapist at all. I just graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications, emphasis in public relations. But I’ve been the Office Manager here for a little more than a year and a half and post all of the blogs on the website. So I decided that, although I am not a therapist, I am a human with thoughts & emotions, and it’s time I take a stab at my own blog post.
Braving The Wilderness
We launched our facebook group, Embodied Living, a few weeks ago and part of the group is our virtual book club. We love Brene Brown over here (well, who doesn’t) and she just came out with a brand new book, Braving the Wilderness, last month and so we thought it would be a perfect first book for our little community that is working on being more present in life, and gaining more self-worth and self-love.
In the first chapter, Brene gets really vulnerable and explains why she decided to write this book and perform the research that accompanied it. She explains that “feeling like I never truly belonged anywhere was my greatest pain, a personal suffering that threaded through most of my pre-adult life” (Brown, pg. 6) and I knew this book was going to hit home.
She continues to tell stories of how the seed of belonging nowhere was planted. How it was nurtured with pain and suffering. And how it grew. She goes on to tell a story of her experience trying out for the Bearkadettes, her high school drill team. She paints the picture so I could clearly see the scenario. And then the pain when she wasn’t chosen to be a member of the team caused me actual pain and heartbreak. Not because she painted the picture so clearly. Not because I felt sympathetic for her experience. But because I’ve felt that exact pain before, too.
When I was five, my mom put me in gymnastics and dance class. After a few years of doing both, I realized I had more speed and strength than I did grace and balance. So gymnastics it was. All of the events came pretty natural to me, but it was obvious tumbling (floor) was my strongest. I progressed a level a year and was starting level seven the year I turned 12. It was also the year I was going to start jr. high. Back then, when you reached level seven, gymnastics pretty much became your life (more than it already was, with four-hour practices four times a week). Long story short, I decided I didn’t want gymnastics to be my life, and so I tried out for a local All-Star Cheer gym.
My few years of dance and 7 years of gymnastics were more than ample training to give me the skills required for cheerleading. And the competition team was different, because it was one two-and-a-half minute long routine that we travelled around competing. I did All-Stars for 3 years, and loved every second of it, but was about to enter high school and decided I wanted to be a part of the school.
Fast forward–because this story is already longer than it needs to be–to the summer of 2011, when I was just about to start my senior year in high school, just got named cheer captain and had every intention of becoming a BYU Cougar and cheerleader the next year. I grew up going to BYU games with my family, and when I made the transition from gymnastics to cheer, I realized that was my dream: cheer on the mighty Cougs.
Well, senior year didn’t go as planned and I ended up injuring my knee badly and had to get my ACL, MCL and Meniscus repaired in September. It’s a 6-12 month recovery, but BYU Cheer tryouts were in March– just six months away. So I chose to listen to the six-month part and made a plan of how I would be ready to try out for BYU, even if that meant my senior year of cheer was over.
I pushed the limits, went above and beyond in physical therapy, went on a crazy-stupid diet (which I have since learned is NOT the way to do it!!) and took private lessons. I felt ready. When my doctor originally heard of my plan to try out for a collegiate cheer team six months after my major knee surgery, he told me he thought it was a bad idea. He said to wait a year. Take more time to recover and make sure I don’t re-injure my knee, which happens quite often.
Naturally, I ignored him and six months and two days after the date of my surgery, I walked into tryouts.
Everyone who knew me knew my dream. They also felt devastated when they heard of my knee injury. They also were proud and convinced that I had worked hard enough to make the cheer team. I had the skills. I had the vision. And I thought I had a secure spot on that team.
The tryout went better than I could have hoped. I nailed what I needed to, and had a lot of fun. The first cut was made, and my number was called. The second cut was made end of day one, and again my number was called. I showed up Saturday morning ready and excited, completed my final section of tryout and waited.
The very final cut was made, and those whose number was called went into the “victory” room to try on uniforms. My number wasn’t called.
I have never hurt or felt so alone or devastated as I did in that moment. I could not believe what had just happened. And there were a lot of dark months that followed that moment.
I felt like Brene did when she didn’t make her beloved Bearkadettes: “I was alone. And it felt devastating” (Brown, pg. 12).
That was five and a half years ago. I have moved on, and sometimes I even forget I tried out. My feelings aren’t hurt
anymore. In fact, I haven’t thought about those sad feelings for years. And it wasn’t until I read the first chapter of the book that I thought about them. I remembered the pain, the disappointment. And I remembered the loneliness.
But after all of these years, I just thought I was sad because it was my dream. But Brene summed up why I had all those terrible feelings, and it all made sense. When I didn’t make the cheer team, that was the end of my cheer career. The end of an enormous part of my life. I kind of lost my identity. I didn’t belong anymore. No more Friday Night Lights. No more competitions and routines, big bows and too much makeup. It wasn’t my world anymore, and if I wasn’t a cheerleader, I didn’t know where I belonged.
But that was my problem. I thought I had to belong to a group to have purpose and meaning. But that’s not what Brene Brown says. She says “being ourselves means sometimes having to find the courage to stand alone, totally alone…As I dug deeper into true belonging, it became clear that it’s not something we achieve or accomplish with others; it’s something we carry in our heart. Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours” (Brown, pg. 32).
Let us all have courage to find true belonging. I’m excited to keep reading this book, and find out more about what Brene Brown has found in her research, and how I can better myself.
Join our Facebook Group Embodied Living to be enlightened and encouraged. And join our book club conversation as we Brave the Wilderness!
Brown, B. (2017). Braving The Wilderness. New York City, New York: Random House.