photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah
Well here we are. The season 2017 has begun. After taking three months off, I am more than ever ready to tackle this year as efficiently and intelligently as possible.
As a freshie, I did not really think of derby as this long term commitment, almost like a job, that I had to adjust to, and treat like I treat everything else in my life. My family, my professional career, my own self-care routine, everything is on a schedule. I have to be well rested, well fed, because I cannot survive derby half-assed. This was in itself something new for me.
I had never played a team sport before joining roller derby. Heck, I had never really played any sport before joining roller derby. I am not the first one to say this. I joined derby because I wanted to try something new. I wanted to learn new things. And the ladies on the league looked badass and cool enough that I wanted to spend some time to get to know them, and then spend a lot of time with them several days per week.
In the past, I tried things, but never really committed to something. I went in cycles, maybe dedicating one or two years to a hobby, then giving it up and forgetting it all about it just like another failed relationship. I was not made for it, I thought. Some people were better at it than me, and that was the end of it.
I am not the first or the last to say roller derby radically changed my view of team sports. I honestly did not think I was cut to be a team player. I am awesome on my own. No boss, and no rules, except my very own, and all the time in the world to slack off. Only thing I could do well was work out in my living room in sync with Shaun T and the dreadful beats of his Insanity videos. I am made for challenges. I welcome competition. I thrive when put under conditions that push me to my outer comfort zone, and force me to improve. Get stronger, faster, smarter. Jumping by myself on a yoga mat, imagining I was training for something big, something important, something that would change my life for the better, I worked out relentlessly with my personal coach on TV for two years. Occasionally, I ran too. Jogging is something I picked up in my early twenties and really fell in love with, but a stupid treadmill injury made me think I was not made for that either. Haha, what a joke.
Deep down though, I always had this dream of skating. Gliding effortlessly and doing tricks. I picked up roller blading in my late teens, never to really graduate to do more than use the flimsy brake on my left heel. When I worked up the courage to finally transition once, I fell so hard on my tailbone I just decided I was not made for this either.
Now fast forward to when I am 32, and I see these badass women on a flat track, hitting each other, opening their hips and skating backwards like they have been doing this since birth. I hear loud screeches on the rink, and I do not get the rules at all, but I do not care. The ad on the flyer saying the league was looking for people, and I did not need to know how to skate to join, convinced me to take the first step and just like that, I joined roller derby.
photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah
First skate practice, I am padded up to the forehead, my skates, pads, outfit and helmet are all color coordinated like I am going to a roller derby pageant. I look new. I look inexperienced and plain clueless. The first steps I take are scary as hell, and do not compare to the first steps I took in my living room the night before to quiet the anxiety of a first time. Rolling on quads make me feel even less balanced than on inlines, and I am not really sure of anything except I really want to try this. I want to glide and I do not care if I fall. I am committed to giving it my all.
The journey started here. What I learned along the way was that commitment is the first step to a roller derby career, just like anything else. Discipline and consistency come next, just like anything else. Balancing responsibilities, job, family obligations, pretty much life on life’s terms, disrupt and distract but as long as I keep the focus on what is important, I am okay. I can juggle it all.
Of course, there are also moments of doubt, so big they can crush you into giving it all up again just because you tell yourself you are not really cut for it.
I was not immune to the doubt. I was not immune, despite all the love I have for this sport, to feeling like this was not my thing. Once the pink cloud vanished, I was left with reality, and reality sucks.
The love was everything though. I had to dig deep inside and cultivate that fire so that I would keep going despite failures, disappointments, and physical setbacks such as injuries.
Whether it was the first practice, or training to pass my minimum skills, my first scrimmage, my first bout, my first time at doing something new, I had to dig deep every time, and find that love, to use it like a weapon. I am cut for it. Giving up is easy, and then what? What do I have left? Memories? Regrets? I absolutely love being on roller skates. Whether it is roller derby, or outdoor ramp skating, that stuff is hard, and I do not care what outsiders have to say, we are not born on wheels. Just like anything else. We are not born to do much of anything. There is always a learning curve.
Of course, you can hate what you do, and then why force it? But why give up if you truly love it?
That is what it came down to. That love was and is everything. During those moments where you think “meh, this is way too hard”, just tread patiently and skate. In those moments where you think you will never get it, just skate. Forget the drama, the voice in your head, or the voice of others who might enable you to quit. Forget the bitterness, the harsh self-talk and the comparing yourself to others bullshit that doesn’t serve you at all. Forget the “I can’t do this” broken record monologue.
Just focus on you right now. Be present. If you have to take a break, take a break. Go do what you gotta do and come back stronger. Come back more in love than you ever were before. Come back confident and ready to learn. Reset your thinking and apply yourself. This works wherever you are in your derby career.
A long successful career is just an accumulation of days. Days where you practiced, played, maybe dicked around, and laughed. Days where where you fell, cried, smiled, lost focus and gained it back, hugged and high-fived your teammates after an awesome move. Days where you took a breath, sat down, and got back up. Days where you decided to give it your all. Days where you gave your all. Days where you were tired but still tried. Days where you doubted but just fought harder. And then there are days where everything just falls into place, and you feel like you are straight in heaven.
This sport will ask a lot from you. It will make you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. It will drain you and fill you up. It will fulfill you and put you in the driver seat on and off the track. It will teach you courage, unconditional love and patience. So much patience.
Today is the opportunity to just reinvent yourself. Put on a pair of skates, and be your own hero.
You deserve it, and tomorrow is already too late, so do it now.
When I don’t derby, I ramp skate! So much fun!
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