Nine months ago, Katie launched The Fan Mail Project. In honor of today’s deadline for letters, I thought I’d share another one of mine. Today is all about my love for Hellcats’ Savannah and how she reminded me of two influential people in my own life.
My final two years of cheerleading was bittersweet. Our captain graduated and her loss took much of the energy out of the program. I was still getting to do what I loved but not nearly at the same level or with the same number of people. It dampened a lot of my love for the sport but it’s impossible to be fully rid of something that meant so much to you. It’s been nearly 10 years since I last picked up my pom poms and I’m happy to say that thanks to you, a fuller version of my love of cheerleading has returned.
Thank you for being proud to be a cheerleader. It’s hard for people who aren’t involved in it to truly understand what goes into the competitive side of cheerleading. It’s seen an activity that is performed for the benefit of other people rather than something that pushes you and is personally fulfilling. But you never let that stop you. When others were dismissive, you shined brighter. Cheerleading wasn’t a popular thing to do at my high school. We won the first state championship in my school’s history and no one cared. It’s hard to remain positive about something when the general response is that of apathy or disregard. But we did it anyway. You would have loved my captain, she shared your passion and even came from a similar background as you. It was her who initially sparked my love for the sport by showing me everything it could be and instilling a level of confidence in myself and my abilities I didn’t know I had. It was you who made me reconnect with that girl.
You reminded me of the joys of cheerleading, of the way it feels to nail a stunt, of the way it feels to perform for people who are only there to see you, and even of the way it feels to cheer for a sport when the crowd is really into it. When I watched you, I didn’t remember the endless hours practicing uninteresting beginner stunts and I certainly didn’t remember the pain of falling or being landed on. I remembered the rush of energy and the passion I felt at cheer camp, surrounded by others that felt the way I did. Thank you for bringing that back to me.
Thank you for being who you are. I went to an evangelical school from the time I started kindergarten to the time I graduated from high school. There were some good people but there was also a lot of judgement and hypocrisy. I may no longer share your faith but I appreciate that you used it as a force of good in your life. You never shied away from your convictions, but you also didn’t use them as a battering ram to hurt those around you. You were the type of person I would have liked to have seen more of, and for that, I’m grateful.
Finally, thank you for the difference you made in the lives of those around you. It’s hard to be a burst of positivity in a cynical world but you did it and you made the people around you start to believe in its power. You were a uniting force that brought your squad together. It is because of you that you pulled off your Nationals bid video and it is because of you that everyone came together to support Marti at the risk of losing everything. It is because of you that Marti came to embrace cheerleading and it’s even because of you that she opened her heart to her sister. Your love, passion and friendship inspired her to do big things that went beyond her dream of becoming a lawyer. They inspired her to be a person who was open to new things and people and less quick to judge.
For as much as I appreciate your love of cheerleading and relate to your background and your need to control the world around you and plan entirely too much, it’s your ability to inspire others that most touches me. Marti’s defense of you at Honor Court left me in tears and it had nothing to do with the way I relate to you in that moment. It left me in tears because in that moment, Marti could have been describing one of my best friends. Everything she said about making other people believe in themselves and what they can accomplish if they refuse to let negativity and doubt in is what my friend stands for. And it is the most beautiful thing to see what she’s done for everyone around her, myself included. So thank you for being that person. Thank you for showing every girl out there that isn’t as brave as my friend that they can make a difference. Thank you for showing the magic that comes from being kind and from being positive. Thank you for your inspiration that comes out of nothing besides a desire to be yourself, very loudly, in a world where it is easier to be quiet.