As I reflect on five exhilarating years spent with the Washington Redskins as an NFL Cheerleader, I have more memories than there are stars as this amazing chapter of my life comes to an end. A select few anecdotal gems follows:
Walking onstage during WRC Final Auditions 2016 after "Number 6" was called, confirming my fourth season would be a reality, and scanning the front rows for the faces I wanted to see most - my now husband, Andrew, and our eight-week old baby boy (at the time) C. Sometimes to reach a deep, personal goal, you have to know your own truth, but equally importantly, you need the support of those who matter and the ability to let go of the judgmental people who don't. I proved to myself what I believed I was capable of - to give a fourth season 100 percent without giving less than 100 percent to my body, career, our family or our baby. I am so happy I chose to follow the path that wasn't the easiest, but so worth it. Season 4 was the most challenging but coincidentally turned out to be my favorite year, and it wouldn't have been possible without you -- Stephanie, Jamilla, Andrew and always most importantly C.
A drizzling, borderline freezing, November game day lining up on the field for a pregame performance. Smiling through chattering teeth, every cheerleader digging deep to find the mental grit to stand still and in formation. Nearing the threshold of positivity, a teammate, who years later would be one of my bridesmaids, decided to enlighten us all on how being cold is a "MINDset" and we could placebo, Jedi-mind trick our bodies into raising their temperatures, reversing initial symptoms of hypothermia. Witnessing said teammate shiver to the point of shaking while spouting out nonsense - there were tears on our cheeks, but not because of the cold or rain. Like this memory, there are countless more where my love and respect for WRC grew as I came to learn what it was really about - not the shining moments, but the moments shining in between. The depth and quality of the friendships formed with the women on the sidelines during 2012, 2014-2016 and 2018 are what I will always remember, and miss, the most.
Walking forward with my WRC sisters, towards a crowd of service men and women during the finale of the Redskins Cheerleader Tour performance, singing "Proud (To Be An American)", everything going blurry because my eyes were filling up with tears. Hours of additional practice and preparation required after being selected for a Military Appreciation Tour finally making perfect sense as the impact of the opportunity to perform in support, and honor, of our country is realized. Through WRC, I crossed paths with men and women I would have never met otherwise in Aruba, Djibouti, London, Curacao, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Mexico and Honduras in ways that touched my life, leaving an impression I will never forget and I like to think we did the same.
Coaching the Washington Redskins Junior Cheerleader Camp and a mother, like me, asking if I could spare a minute to take a picture with her daughter, because my words of encouragement and feedback over the past three days made an impact on her and her camp experience. Prior to WRC, I didn't have much experience working closely with kids and it wasn't until WRC I learned that to inspire or ignite a young heart, simply by sharing something you love or living by example is one of the most satisfying, rewarding feelings.
December 9, 2018. The last game of my WRC career, looking around and up at the 400's, trying to remember minute details I knew I'd forget eventually, but my eyes finding a now almost 3-year-old C, sitting with his legs dangling over the wall of the field, happy and looking right at me with his front row seat. Often when people think of something good 'ending' the emotion is panic, but in contrast, the only thing in my heart was peace. When you fulfill the goals of your heart, you can be content and make room for new ones. On to the next good thing.
There are so many more memories, but if there is a single sentiment to summarize the way my heart feels about WRC it would be this ...
I believe people should actively seek to funnel their spirit and energy into the path they dream about. Time is a finite resource. You can't buy more of it so spend it selectively and well. There is no better time than today to focus on what you're passionate about and then pursue it with all the fire you're capable of for as long as it takes. At the end of the day, or the chapter :), I think a sign of time well spent, or a path well chosen, is that you don't stop to question what life would be like had you chosen differently. I will never regret walking up to the registration table at FedEx Field in 2011 (even though I didn't make it) because it was the beginning of the journey that led me to where I am right now writing this -- and from the first day, to my last day as a WRC, and every single day of my experience in between, I am so thankful.
Love and HTTR always,