How do we describe ourselves as people? How do we answer the question of who are you? Tell me about yourself? I’m a bunch of things. I’m a software engineer (since we usually define ourselves by our jobs first). I’m a wife/sister/daughter/pet owner. I’m a photographer. I’m a dark angry person. I’m smart (I like to think). I’m a reader. I’m a thinker of deep thoughts. I’m an athlete. What is an athlete? What does it mean to be athletic? I run. Baseline that’s what I do. I’ve tacked things on, did a few sprint tris and a summer biathlon, but I used to be so much more. I used to skate. And hit. And fall. And lead. I used to play roller derby. I played for three years and when it was gone, it was gone. There was a big empty spot where derby used to be.
I’m not one of the “roller derby saved my soul” girls. But it changed me. It defined who I was. When I started, as with the majority of fresh meat, I hadn’t strapped on roller skates since middle school. I knew nothing. But as time progressed I became badass. Girls don’t play contact sports. Especially hard core contact. Without much protection. Knee and elbow pads to cushion your joints for when you fall. Wrist guards so you don’t break your wrists when you fall (I broke a wrist guard falling once). Mouth guard and helmet to protect your teeth and brains. That’s it. Using your body to hit someone is difficult at first. What if I hurt them? What if they fall? It’s the way the game is played. And it is brilliant.
Somewhere in the progression between freshmeat and making a team you figure out your “derby name”. You are no longer known by your name, you are now called your derby name. It makes you feel powerful, it’s your secret identity. Your true identity. Mine was Psychodelic Nightmare. I’ve always had bad dreams. It fit. It was great waiting for bouts to start and hearing the noise. As your name is announced and you skate a lap the crowd cheers. Then the action starts. The split second lineup decisions. Blocking the other team, making holes for your jammer, working with your teammates. Then, win or lose, a fun drunken afterparty with much dancing and celebrating. The camaraderie was amazing. Having a strong group of women with a common interest, striving towards a common dream. True friends that you can just exist and have fun with. Amazing.
But as with all good there is bad. My league was an hour away from my house. Which wasn’t a super big deal when practice was twice a week. Then it became three times a week. Two hour practices and you really need to add a half hour on either side of that for getting ready/warm up/cool down. That’s if it isn’t a night when you have a committee or team or league meeting which could add another hour easily. Sometimes I’d have to go up another time during the week for one meeting or another. And it’s expensive. My good skates cost $800. Then there is the ever rotating need of new wheels/bearings/pads/helmets. As with any large group of people, there was a bunch of personality conflict. The A-team always bullying the B-team to do what they wanted since they were apparently the ones who knew best. When you have a bunch of strong personalities things can get rough fast.
I could handle all of that crap because the good out weighed the bad because I had my close friends and I was strong. And then one day one of my friends turned on me. She tried out mid-season for the A-team and expected to move up. That didn’t happen. As one of the B-team captains I had a say in the try-outs. As a group the captains and coaches decided she should stay put. And I got the blame. And she spent the rest of the season making life difficult. And playing the victim. The next to last bout of the season I got a concussion five minutes in. And my knees were really starting to have issues. So there went my strong. I was criticized for taking a week off of skates and then another week without contact to let my brain recover. I quit at the end of the season. It turns out that friends made in derby are only friends while you are skating. As soon as you quit, you are no longer needed. I only have one friend from my former derby life. I quit and had a hole in my life. I lost a major chunk of my life. It left me saying