Roller derby has been a big part of my life for almost two years. Husboy started first as a referee, then I joined as a non-skating official. It was great. I found a new set of fast friends. They are a group of strong women from a myriad of backgrounds that come together equally to form a community of athleticism, determination, charity and camaraderie. They are the women of Central Maine Derby.
I started off skating hugging the walls. It had been probably 20 years since I had skated on quads in a roller rink. It was difficult, but I pursued it. I officially started with the league as a skater in November of 2013. I was a normal newb. I fell all over the place and busted my tail bone. Twice. I also took chances. This was an opportunity to turn myself into what I wanted to be. I could come out of my introversion when in a room with more than 10 people. I could go back to being athletic and active like I was in high school with dance and marching band. I could wear funny socks and color my hair however I felt like in a particular moment. So I did.
On top of learning to skate I put in volunteer hours as a non-skating official. I was the Social Events committee head. I’m on the Team Naming committee. I do parades and beer fests and all sorts of other things with my derby sisters and the community. I’m the freaking Vice President.
But the thing is, I’m not a good skater.
Granted, there are reasons for this. I got a really bad (derby-related) ankle sprain this time last year that took me off skates for six months. I’m far from being in shape. I have health issues that often keep me from practice and, hell, I wasn’t exactly a natural to begin with.
None of that has mattered thus far. I’ve still been committed and excited for the day when I actually get to play.
Except it’s starting to matter now.
Growing up I was used to being good at whatever I decided to do without really trying. Thanks to my parents I was afforded the opportunity to try out whatever I wanted and was encouraged to do so. I was rarely the best at anything but I got by just fine sitting pretty at “above average.” If that didn’t come naturally, I didn’t stick with it. That hasn’t been the case with derby and I’ve taken it as an opportunity to keep working at something not just because I love it, but to become the kind of person that doesn’t give up.
I’ve always been behind the other skaters I started with. Sure, everyone is at their own level and we all work with what we have. It’s a team sport. We use each others’ strengths and help everyone build up their particular weaknesses. It’s great.
The problem is, my weaknesses are starting to get the better of me. Lately, instead of derby being my release, it’s been more of a burden.
I miss half of practices because of either my gastric disorder or my bipolar disorder. Then when I actually make it to practice, my performance also stems on both of those things. I did have a remission from my gastroparesis for a few months up until very recently, but that’s when I put on 40lbs because suddenly I could eat whatever I wanted and I wanted all of it. It’s harder to skate when you are suddenly carrying around that much more you. Between that and a medication side-effect that was giving me tremors, the past couple of months of derby have kind of been hellish.
Now when I put on my skates and try to perform but fail, it’s become a reminder of what is wrong with me and what I cannot do.
All of this came to a head a couple of weeks ago when my class (the third one I’ve been with) was doing the skills testing to move up to scrimmage/player level. I wanted to pass so badly I could hardly stand it, but of course when you can’t even try to do every task because your legs refuse to hold you up any longer that can’t actually happen. So I’m still behind.
It’s incredibly discouraging when the people you started out with as fresh meat are the ones now telling you that you’re not good enough. It’s not their fault. There’s a checklist. I simply do not have what it takes to check every box.
Still, it’s a reminder of where I want to be and where I think I should be, because I hold myself to the highest standards. Even though derby is something so great, it has given me courage and friendship and community, I don’t want to be my biggest disappointment.