Although I tried out once, I was not a cheerleader in high school. I had danced before as part of a community program at Hamilton Park on Chicago’s south side with my twin sister and our cousin. We were taught handstands, traditional African dances (I am not sure of the tribe), and tap dancing. We traveled to put on shows and everything.
But dancing was not for me.
Over the years, as my twin and cousin got deeper into it (joining Pom-Pom teams and creating dances from the latest hits), I grew out of it.
Instead, I read books, wrote in my diary, and joined all the “boring” programs at school.
It didn’t take long to realize I was not like everyone else. The things my peers found exciting did not move me.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how these seemingly boring activities were stepping stones to sharpening my writing skills and preparing me for a career as a writer.
Writing School Plays: During my Sophomore and Junior years, the school employed a group of other students and me to participate in a program where we had to write and perform plays for the school. I do not remember the program’s name, but this was my first official writing job.
Pen Pal Program: The photo above is from a pen pal program between our High School on the south side and a school on the north side. We wrote letters to our pals and introduced ourselves. Next, they filmed us introducing ourselves on camera and swapped it with the other school. And then, finally, we all met up in person in downtown Chicago. This was the first day we all met, and the event concluded with a camping trip in Wisconsin.
The Yearbook Team: I was actually the only member of the yearbook team that year, lol. Everyone thought it would be boring, but I thought it would be fun, and it was. Not only did I get out of class to film assemblies, but I got to follow Arnie Duncan (then the CEO of Chicago Public Schools) and Jessie Jackson around with the camera, snapping pictures that would be featured in the book.
UMOJA Spoken Word Poetry Group: I was part of a poetry group called UMOJA Spoken Word my Sophomore year. (UMOJA is the Swahili word for unity.) I was already writing poetry, but this group taught me how to go deeper by introducing the mechanics of the craft.
When I found this photo, I realized that everything I did led to this moment and that everything I do today is also leading somewhere greater.
I don’t know about you, but the fact that our past has shaped us for today and our today is shaping us for our tomorrow is fascinating to me. It is one of the reasons I love history.
The next time you feel inadequate or frustrated with your journey, whatever journey that may be, I hope this inspires you to look back at those special moments in your life. Remember that you are only stepping stones away from where you are destined be.