In junior high I was a cheerleader, for a few months; then I quit. I was too aimless for the after-school time commitment, and I didn’t like the fact that I was clueless about the game.

In Canada — well, at our school at least — being a cheerleader didn’t have the same status as in the movies and books. As long as you had agility and rhythm, you could be ugly and unpopular and still be a cheerleader. Still, because of the “on stage” aspect, mostly attractive girls tended to try out. Hali and Maureen were two of those, and being good friends, they toted me along with them.

I hated the uniform colours — yellow and black; they didn’t suit my pale, freckled complexion. However, I did love the cheers. Small choreographed dances with clapping and chanting, simple gymnastics; and best of all, we were literally cheering people on, and getting others to do the same. What could be better?

I  didn’t like that some of the boys jeered at us or made lewd comments.

—“Let’s go Monty, let’s go! (clap clap) Let’s go Monty, let’s go!”


—“Defence, attack! We’ve got to get the ball back! Uh-huh. Defence, attack! We’ve got to get the ball back!”


But it wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Half the time we didn’t know what they were talking about anyway. Hungry for validation, tuned in to our own bodies’ subtle yearnings as they filtered through the fairy tales and romance novels of our minds’ eyes, we assumed good intent. A sweet valley kind of high.

Hali was the head cheerleader. She was confident as hell and actually understood the game. She knew when to shout for the defence attack. She’d flip the boys the bird behind the coach’s back.

“YeeeeAAAAAAAAY WILDCATS!” Pompoms circling wide and high, jack-jump, flip finish. Honey-bronze legs in white socks. Perfectly manicured middle finger poised elegantly toward the peanut gallery. Smile, strut and wave.

The field was a muddy place.

It was easier to be on the sidelines, in the stands, whispering behind our hands. We could believe in our own limitless potential, from the safety of the shelter.

But it was not as exciting as being in the arena. Our faces red and mud-spattered in the sweltering rain.




  • p.s. Yes, friends, the interview is coming… I just had to get this one out of my drafts folder, it’s been rotting there far too long… there is a method to the madness…  In the meantime, check out Brené Brown’s talk about “the arena,” which she credits to a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, and which partly inspired the above little story.  Brené Brown’s “The Man In The Arena Speech” (3-minute edited version uploaded by Oie Osterkamp Nov 13, 2016)

Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. If you wish to contribute and/or show appreciation, please recommend/like and/or comment — or send email via the contact page. Thank you for reading. ❤︎


4 thoughts on “THE ARENA

  1. You are such a talented writer – I felt like I was there. I genuinely felt, reading this, the way I did at school; wanting to hide at the same time as I was part of something, glancing at the confident girls and not quite living up to (in my own mind anyway) how I perceived them. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Anna, your comments are just lighting up my morning. This is so generous of you to say. Yes high school was a crazy kind of place wasn’t it, but perhaps an appropriate preparatory experience for the so-called real world…. at least that’s what I keep hoping when I see my own kids going through it. xoxo

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  2. Pingback: Things done – Bloomwords

  3. I agree with you completely that being in the stands is not as exciting as being in the arena. I was on a swim team from the age of ten until the age of sixteen. I loved it! Your post kind of made look back in time. (Thanks for that) In retrospect I think I learned so much from the experience: team work which included happiness in not only my successes, but in the successes of others on the team, camaraderie, the results of trying hard (i.e.: It took me two years to master the butterfly stroke and then on the high school team I would end up being the one chosen to swim the butterfly in relay races. What a reward for all of my hard work and not giving up.), and just the incredible experience of being part of something larger than myself. p.s. I loved the condensed Brene Brown talk on the arena. Thanks for the link. p,p.s. I got a giggle out of your p.s. “…I just had to get this one out of my drafts folder, it’s been rotting there far too long…” I too have a lot of stuff rotting in my drafts folder. lol Maybe it’s a writer thing? Anyway, as always, I love reading your posts. I am so glad I came across your blog in my travels.


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