You learn a lot from anything if you keep at it for four years. For example, more than four years of my childhood saw me attempting to rock straight-across bangs. My sister affectionately compared me to a push broom. From that experience I learned to grow out those bangs or fully commit to looking like Marnie from Halloweentown.
Halloween is cool, and all, but I’m glad I chose the first option. I encourage all girls with Hermione-esque hair to do the same. Similarly, I’ve learned many lessons from four years as a Redstepper.
My mom first told me about the dance team at Indiana University during my senior year of high school. I saw this cowboy boot-clad kick line of women and wasn’t sure it would be the right fit for me. They’ve been “straddling yard lines since 1972” and I wasn’t sold, especially upon seeing the matching cowboy hats.
I found out later that I was wrong. Each year I met the girls who would become my best friends, as cliché as it sounds. Something about sweating through the August and September games and freezing for the rest of the season really brings you closer to the people around you. (Although if you ask our coach she will insist that Redsteppers don’t sweat or get cold. So you’ll have to take my word for it.)
If I’m being entirely honest I never cared about sports. At this point though I’ve been on the sidelines for every game in Memorial Stadium. I even know how many games we need to win to go to a bowl. I’m grateful that IU football provided me an opportunity to dance at the collegiate level, but I’ve learned not to expect much. In this way, Redsteppers has taught me that people can surprise you and your expectations. Whether it’s your unranked football team beating Michigan State or an unexpected friendship formed on the field, surprises are something to celebrate.
Being prepared for anything came to be expected. Whether you have a pulled hamstring or your dress pops open in the middle of the pregame show, you have to keep going. Redsteppers taught me to persevere. Game days are kind of like the “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” sequence in Mulan. Except in the end we don’t save China, and sometimes IU loses the game. Anyway, if you smile through something—with our required “Crimson Joy” lipstick of course—you’ll make it to the other side and have a good story to tell.
Most of all Redsteppers taught me that any place, even a huge campus crowded with people, can be home if you find your place. For me that place was with my team. Even if we are doing the “turkey lurkey,” a staple Redstepper move since the 1970s that I can only describe as aggressively Midwestern, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Redsteppers has taken my college experience and made it exciting and sparkly, while also covering my apartment with turf from the field. So the next time you see something that you aren’t instantly passionate about, give it a little time. The thing that could change your life might just be wearing red, bedazzled cowboy boots.