Saturday, April 18, 2009

Motivation from an unexpected place

This morning I was flipping through TV channels trying to find something to watch while I ate breakfast. I stumbled on a reality show called Made which is on MTV. I don't think I've watched MTV since college when we would all gather around the TV set in the sorority to watch Michael Jackson's Thriller (yeah, we needed to get lives).

This show is about teenagers who want to accomplish something - run a triathlon, become a rapper or a skateboarder - and MTV helps them achieve that goal. This episode was about an unpopular, heavyset girl named Alicia who wanted to be a cheerleader. She was an oddball at school, quiet and not confident in herself - pretty much the opposite of the cheerleader type. So MTV got her cheerleading and tumbling coaches and entered her in a cheer competition occurring 4 weeks from the beginning of her training.

Watching her at the beginning, I couldn't imagine that she'd be able to compete in just 4 weeks. She was uncoordinated, out of shape and didn't seem to have the determination to see things through. She cried all the time and whined that she couldn't do it. In the end, she not only competed, but she came in 6th out of 8 girls in the competition. She was confident, smiled more and projected a much better image in her day to day life. She didn't lose a lot of weight - they didn't talk about diet at all which was great. (Girls don't need another message about dieting and being thin). This wasn't about looking the part, it was about putting in the hard work to achieve a goal. However unlikely that goal may be.

If this was an afterschool special, I would have been downright angry about what would seem to be an unrealistic happy ending. Children's programming often does kids a disservice by implying that they can do anything but not showing the hard work that must accompany the achievement of a goal. This show tells them that they can achieve their goals but they have to be prepared to work hard and overcome many obstacles.

Alicia really put herself out there in pursuit of her cheerleading goal. Maybe you think that becoming a cheerleading isn't a worthy goal. That's what I thought at first. But watching this girl overcome her fears, come out of her shell and do something she really wanted to do was more motivating than a bookshelf full of self-help books. Sure, she had coaches that she might not have been able to afford without MTV. And being on TV can be a huge motivator when times get tough. But she did the work. She achieved the goal. And no one can take that away from her. It will benefit her through her entire life and that's what made me cry.

Watching that show got me off the couch this morning. I wrote. My daughter and I worked out. Then I wrote some more. I'm rededicating myself to my personal reinvention. If Alicia can become a cheerleader, I can reinvent myself and become the person I always wanted to be. And I have the rest of my life to do it.
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