When I was in junior high school, I tried out for the cheerleading squad. And let me tell you, I really, really, really wanted to make it. To this day I don’t know why it was so important: the camaraderie? The outfits? The perceived popularity that went with it? What I do know is that my friends and I practiced our cheers every chance we got before those auditions.
On the day the list was posted, my dreams of flailing pompoms in a choreographed dance routine were dashed. I didn’t make the squad. Later that afternoon, our principal called an assembly of every girl who had tried out. The judges had been so impressed with the talent that they had decided to add three additional spots to the team.
I didn’t get one of the additional spots. My friend did. And I remember chowing down on a big bunch of sour grapes and thinking, clearly, the only reason she made it and I didn’t was luck.
It couldn’t have been that I’m a natural klutz and maybe didn’t have the best audition in the world.
It couldn’t have been that I can’t jump more than six inches off the ground.
It couldn’t have been that I had other after school commitments and probably couldn’t keep up with the rehearsal schedule.
It couldn’t have been that she was better than I was.
It was easier to blame the outcome on either her luck, or my lack thereof. But in a pretty solid way, that was an insult to both of us. If luck had truly been a factor, then everything else must have been equal: our splits, our cartwheels, our handstands, our coordination. And frankly, how possible is it that our auditions mirrored each other’s?
Not very. And I can say that with full confidence, because I know exactly what went down during mine. So the next time I’m tempted to credit luck for someone’s achievements, I’ll think again.