For our beloved Redskins fans-
Exactly 112 ladies with whom I’ve cheered in Washington, D.C. Fifty-three NFL games on the sidelines. Ten military bases visited. Nine countries visited. Five indescribable seasons. Three choreography awards. Two playoff games, steadfast directors, and game day lines to call mine forever (Cheerios & Cheetos always). One team.
First off, to be part of the NFL, the Redskins and the game of football is a true honor. To some, football is just a game – no more, no less. But to me and the hundreds of thousands that the NFL has positively impacted, it is so much more than that. The NFL brings awareness to our military, advocates for breast cancer awareness, gives children healthy activities and touches thousands of lives each year. Its entertainment is what gives us, as typical civilians, a reprieve from the everyday. It gives us elation and suspense and hope and relieves us, if only temporarily, from the stress that is related to our actual core needs. And the players who play this game, the ones who are fulfilling a childhood dream by laying down their bodies at the line of scrimmage every Sunday – they are the lucky ones; not because of their earnings, not because of the fame, but because they are living out their passion. It is because of this huge, far-reaching organization that I am also able to live out my passion.
Being a Redskins Cheerleader for the majority of my 20s has given me one thousand things for which to be thankful. Once irrationally shy and full of self-doubt, I have learned how to engage with strangers and speak skillfully in public. I have learned self-confidence and dizzying degrees of time-management. I have learned poise, humility, and how to lead by earning respect, not demanding it. I have been given invaluable resources in how to keep my body healthy and happy. I have been given a stereotype, an obstacle to hurdle with aplomb, building character along the way. I have been given a platform to make a small yet noticeable difference in the DMV community. I have been given a passport full of stamps from places unfathomed. I have been given a network of empowering and empowered women who have realized that it is far easier and more rewarding to lift each other up than to tear each other down. I have been given a football field on which to perform, fans to smile for, a team to cheer for. I have been given a safe haven to escape to and forget life’s stresses, if only for a little while, a place where I can find joy in my dancing and helping to improve the dancing of others. I have been given a sense of life balance – my career as a tax accountant has been juxtaposed by my “fun job” as one of the Redskins Cheerleader Captains. And I think what is most important – I have been given an unconditional sisterhood of women who I know will be by my side for the rest of my inconsequential life.
I’ve never before had to actively make the decision to leave something that I love so much and that I love for so many reasons. Consequently, this farewell is painstakingly difficult. I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank the most influential and important people here – my parents and the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders directors, Stephanie Jojokian and Jamilla Keene. I could go on for ages regarding these four humans, but my most paramount thank you is for believing in me. Thank you for entrusting me with opportunities that have shaped me into the person that I am proud to look at in the mirror today. I am forever a work-in-process (WIP for all you accountants out there).
To my team: you have been my backbone and the reason I have learned to stand so tall on my own. One of my favorite quotes is by Chris McCandless: “Happiness only real when shared.” I am so glad I could share my happiness with you, yet also cyclically, it is because of you that I could experience happiness. Continue to raise the bar, get low, dance big, and offer little bits of kindness to everyone you meet. It’s been a monumental and humbling honor to stand beside you, to lead you, and to just laugh with you. I hope that you will carry a piece of me with you just as I am carrying tiny pieces of all of you as we dance onward.
So, Redskins fans, it is with a heavy and full heart that I leave my final words here with you. For me, cheering for the Redskins has been my prime source of joy, a limitless and exciting challenge, a dream encapsulated, yet also a reason to wake up from my dreams and chase down the day. I hope you are all able to find that dream such as I’ve been able to find it here, at home at FedExField. *Cue tears. Mic drop.*
Hail to the Redskins always.
2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015