Here at iamrollerderby, we know that our favorite sport is AWESOME, but it can also be confusing, emotional, and downright frustrating. We also know that there are some questions and concerns you'd rather not voice, some battles you're fighting silently. Those questions make you feel like you're alone sometimes, but you're totally not. Whatever you're feeling, someone in derby has likely felt it, too. Maybe not in your league, maybe not in your Facebook friends list, but somewhere. Somewhere out there is another person (or 12, or 158) asking the same questions, looking for the same answers. That's why we've created Dear Derby, and we're hoping you'll be brave enough to submit an anonymous question and let us help, so that everyone can benefit from bringing the situation to light.
From the helmet of: Gravy
2014 was a whirlwind year. And a banner year. Just whirlwinds and banners everywhere, with me floating around somewhere in between. I was an academic. And a bum. I moved to the other side of the country. I lost myself. I found myself. I lost my mind. I found that, too. For now. I skated and skated and skated. I skated to forget. I skated to remember. I skated for the hell of it and I skated with a fiery purpose as if nothing else mattered.
In 2014, I gave my all. To everything. Mentally, physically, every part of me was used up and spit out. But it was replenished and replaced with strength, toughness, and voracity. Anyone that knows me for an extended amount of time knows that I’m very good at overwhelming myself. I want to do it all! right! now! So when I moved to Austin and the magical world of roller derby mecca opened up, I couldn’t handle it. There was SO MUCH to do and I wanted to do ALL OF IT. Scratch that, I was GOING to do all of it.
Two days after coming in, I skated. I wasn’t sure how to handle the heat and got heat exhaustion. Damn, Texas is hot. And damn, the Blood Shed is hotter. I started skating in the first level of rec league. I tested up to the second level. I started going to Austin Anarchy practices with my boyfriend, who skates for them. I joined Bat City Rebellion. I tested up in rec league again. I went to speed skate. I joined a co-ed team. I went to clinics. I went to Friday Night Lights when there were only 5 other people there. I went when there were 40. I officiated in bouts and scrimmages. I went to the gym. I PRd and PRd and I felt good and strong. I did hill sprints and I hated every single second of it. I bench-coached a few teams. I went to lessons. I tried out and made the top level of rec league. I skated 20 hours in one week, including 6 hours of clinic and a co-ed bout in one day. I tried out for TXRG. I made the New Girl program. I volunteered at Charleston playoffs. I learned the importance of off-skate warmups. I skated 6 days a week for 3 weeks. I did a million box jumps. I got drafted! I became a Hell Mary (Hell Yes!). This weekend we’re driving to Champs. And in December we’re volunteering at the World Cup.
I can definitely say that the last half of 2014 has been way better than the first. But the last few weeks specifically have been amazing. Being chosen as a New Girl and then having crazy intense practices 3-4 times a week was a dream, being taught by seasoned Texas Rollergirls and Texecutioners. I loved every minute of it. My body, not so much. She started wearing down in the third week, just because I wasn’t sleeping well and was having trouble eating enough (those things are important, guys!). But I made it through. And I know that nothing my body could’ve told me would’ve made me stop (again, bad, don’t do that), but luckily that was never an issue. And I’m so ready to give myself to my new league and to soak up as much as I possibly can.
It’s funny to think about where I started and where I am now. I bought a pair of skates before I had a place to skate. The guy said something about not dropping a lot of money on your first pair of skates because you might quit. And I was like, “OKAY WEIRDO.”
So then I found a league April of 2011 when I moved back to Huntington, WV – the Jewel City Rollergirls. Sometimes we’d have 5 people at practice. Our league never had more than 20. Everything was hard. Finding bouts without a home location to hold on. Getting people to come to practice. Doing business things. Branding ourselves. It was all a struggle. All of this while we were learning how to skate and be competitive. Learning how to be athletes for the first time, to work as a team. Trying to understand how a body could possibly hurt this bad. Am I dying?
And now, here I am a member of the Texas Rollergirls, lifting weights multiple times a week, and refusing to wear pants that don’t stretch. I look back at those fresh meat pictures and I’m grateful for everything that has happened to bring me to here. I’ve grown up a lot. I’ve made a lot of friends. I found my niche and found where I finally feel like I belong. It has been a crazy journey full of strange moments, bad moments, and life-changingly wonderful moments. The great thing about roller derby is that if you want something, the power to have it is in your own hands.
From the helmet of: Tesla
Excuses: I'm fabulous at them. If they were a minimum skill, I'd pass that portion with flying colors and extra credit. If you've ever skipped practice due to anxiety, not worked out because reasons, not gone to bed or woken up on time, or eaten a whole pizza without a second thought, then you're likely a whiz with excuses, too. Excuses go hand in hand with honesty and responsibility. When you make them, and tell yourself you believe them, you're not taking responsibility OR being honest (with yourself and others).
Excuses are sly. They comfort and coddle you. They slip soft fingers into your cold hands and fill you with that warm whiskey-drink called rationalization...
"It's too hot outside to exercise. You can't go out there, you'll pass out! Oh, it's kinda nice out? Well, you're out of Nuun."
"You'll do better tomorrow." What a wonderful promise of hope and renewal. Tomorrow is a new day! Tomorrow is also the day most people quit smoking, start their diet, and clean the house. Tomorrow is convenient. I mean, it's always there, as long as you live to see it. Some people don't know if they will live to see it, and it is from those people that I think we need to take a cue. We are not promised a tomorrow. We don't deserve it. We're not entitled to it. Live today like you might not get one.
How does this apply to derby? Well, it may not apply to you. Maybe you're a rockstar that eats whole, healthy foods, commits 100% on the track, works out 5 days a week, sleeps 8 hours a night, and stays away from alcohol and tobacco. More than likely, though, you're a little on the excuse-y side, at least once in a while. You've read this far, so you must have a reason for sticking around. I'd like to admit something: I am terribly unfair to myself. I don't give myself a fair shot. Every single day, EVERY SINGLE FLIPPING DAY, I have the chance to make good choices and make progress. I have the chance to go for a walk, do 20 push-ups, jump rope in the driveway, pull out the yoga mat. I have the chance to drive to the grocery store and buy fresh greens and proteins instead of heading to grab to-go food. I have the chance to sit down and draw up meal plans, workout agendas, and goals. No one is holding me back. I choose not to do all of these things. I even get a great discount at the gym right down the road, and I don't choose to utilize it. I mean, that gym has a HOT TUB! But there are people at the gym. People! Does any of that sound familiar?
Lately I've been pulled aside by a few fellow skaters and told I have tons of potential, but I'm holding myself back. They are always so encouraging and nice, and it makes me feel really great, but also a little sad. They see me not applying myself. They hear me laughing and saying I'm only in derby for the fun, and it frustrates them a little because they think that if I only wanted it more and pushed myself, I could be really great. That is a stellar vote of confidence from some strong ladies I admire, right? So, why does it feel so awful? I am only doing derby casually, for fun, right?
Doubt creeps in. When I watch the Texas Rollergirls skate, do I feel only admiration, or do I feel aspiration? ::looks around innocently:: Me? Do I want to be a Texas Rollergirl? Do I want to be on a world class team like the Texies and skate at that level? I can't bring myself to speak the words "Yes, of course I do," because I don't think I'm capable of making it that far. I watch girls try out and and fail, and their failure is so much more skillful and spectacular than my greatest tries. I would never compare my beginning to their middle, that's just ridiculous, but I do compare my drive, focus, and determination to theirs, and I wonder if I'll ever get there. I see determination as something that comes on later, way after you've struggled. I don't seem to understand that I could be determined now if I wanted. I see how long they've been skating and how hard they've worked for their sport. Do I have what it takes to do that? Do you?
If you are just in derby for the fun, I want you to ask yourself the same questions. You might have to admit to yourself that you DO want it. You want it so bad you could just make yourself sick, but you give up before you've begun because you know you don't have a chance. You're just being realistic (that's an excuse). You are defeated before you've even tried. We all deserve a fair shake, right? A chance at a dream. If your secret, innermost dream is to be a pro-level skater, listen up: You have all the power to try. You have this one life and this one body. Don't watch everyone else skate by and not give yourself a fair chance. Those rockstar skaters didn't get where they are by whining about their life from the sofa. You know what you have to do, and so do I. If you don't want it, that's fine. But if you do... what are you waiting for? You think we have to skate for years in order to find our reason to strive for greatness? We could start right now.
So, here I am. I have a decision to make. I can continue to have a fun, flirty relationship with roller derby, or I can be a fucking committed derby skater in the greatest derby town in the world (yeah, I said it). I can eat potato chips, or I can do core exercises. I just have to decide what I want out of life and where I want to go, and then I have to take action. You don't have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to be great. I don't know who said that, but I like it. Let's do this. Greatness starts here.
From the helmet of: Tesla
Oh, Tesla. When we are unhappy, we usually know how to become happy. We know which direction we need to travel, which mountains to climb, which floors to sweep, and which closets to purge. We know the effort we will have to make, and how to accomplish the tasks. Yet, it is at these moments when we often feel the most lost and desperate. Why should we feel this way when we know the answer? Because, the answer is hard. The tasks are tiresome, grueling, and uncomfortable. Because sitting idle is easier! It's so hard to start something when the task is large and you feel so small, but it's hard to finish something you aren't willing to start.
This is why you need to go to practice. You need to get up off the sofa, put down your smart phone, and go to practice. You need to shake the idleness from your bones and awaken your will. Being quiet and still is wonderful, but it is not productive. Sometimes you need to get your head straight and your space organized so that you can enjoy the quiet stillness. You have to wake up! You have to move. You need energy and drive to be the person you want to be, to live the life you want to live. How can you not feel alive on the track? How can you not feel life's heartbeat when you're pressed against the racing heartbeat of the pack? You'll remember your strength when you brace for impact, when you push yourself forward and inhale deeply. Your sofa may be nice, the voices and echos of your home may be comforting, but you need to go to practice.
Inspiration isn't found lying around the house. You can't find it on the bathroom counter, or in the refrigerator. You can't earn it in hours of seeking it out. Inspiration is born of experience and reflection. It hides just outside your narrow comfort zone, waiting for you to feel something, even if that something is apprehension or pain. We need inspiration to keep going, to keep creating, to keep giving, and we need all of those things in order to thrive. We need the cold eye of a stranger, and we need the warm smile of new friend. Sometimes we need those two things from the same person, to remind us of the good there is still in the world, and that we are still able to find it. You won't find anything if you don't look for it. You won't earn anything for which you don't work.
So, get up and go. Put on your sneakers, gather your gear, and go. Do something that scares you. Do it with all your heart and don't look at your feet.
From the helmet of: Tesla
You know how other peoples' cars and other peoples' houses smell really funny to you? That's the smell of being uncomfortable. It's the smell of the feeling you get when you're around people you don't know. It's the confusion of not knowing what to do with your hands in a photo. And I bet it's the way it feels to start in a new league because your husband wanted to move to Colorado (I'll explain that in a minute). It's got to feel really funny, like putting on a shoe that's the wrong size, and then running a marathon in it. Or, more accurately, skating a bout in a boot that's four sizes too big. Just... a struggle. I've read posts from girls on Freshie boards that make me ache inside. They talk about fear and doubt after changing leagues, about that feeling of not being accepted and everything being so off, and I always thank my lucky stars I'm not going anywhere. I've only been with these girls for 4 months, but it's taken me this long to even settle in a bit and stop panicking. Changing leagues has got to be rough, but for some of us just starting derby was an enormous hurdle. I'm here to tell you that jumping that hurdle is worth it.
I have some pretty ridiculous social anxiety issues. I avoid crowds like the plague, and stay home as much as humanly possible. I won't even go to the grocery store. My husband does all the grocery shopping, and I just deal with it when he buys weird stuff and can't figure out what kale is. Anyone with social anxiety will tell you that THE HARDEST part is getting out the door. Getting to the place. Getting in the door. I struggle with it every day I go to practice, still, but after some trial and error I've found a few things that have really helped me stick with derby and even branch out a little. Since I started derby I've become so much bolder. I mean, I went to a SHOW. A concert type thing! Then I drove home in the dark! These may sound stupid to you, but those were colossal hurdles for me, and I leapt them because of derby.
I want to share the things that really helped me get through the anxiety, but first I'll explain that Colorado thing: My husband wants to move. We've been in Austin for three years, and he's missing snow. I'm from San Antonio, Tejas, baby, and I just don't know about this snow business. I didn't see snow until Christmas Day the year I turned 24. Yeah, it doesn't snow in San Antonio, and only rich folks take vacations. Anyway, I'd kinda been dreaming of seeing snow my whole life, and when I finally got to see it... it gave me a massive panic attack. I'm talking crying, hyperventilating, screaming. I had a meltdown. Snow TERRIFIED ME. Great. Add that to the list of irrational fears. She'll pick up a spider in her bare hands, but show her a cricket and she loses her effing mind. If fears were rational we wouldn't have them at all. For now I've pacified my husband with the promise of a snow trip this winter, but goodness. What would I do if I had to start this derby thing all over? I'm amazed I've made it this far without a therapist. Let's talk about how I managed that. I hope some of these can help you, too.
So, maybe those things helped. Maybe they didn't. Maybe everyone else is a total badass that never needs help. Maybe I'm the only rollergirl with anxiety issues...?
Nah. I'm not. If you EVER need a pep talk, email me, or find me on Instagram (I'm @Libbybot). Friend me on Facebook and we'll chat it up. I'm not kidding even a little bit, and I won't judge your neurosis. When I was 14 my grandmother forced me to go to a youth event at her church "because she needs to socialize!" I was so completely overwhelmed that I threw up on the linoleum of the fellowship hall and then passed out. I woke up in some weird back room with people staring at me, vomit crusting on my face. Now you know stuff.
Tesla and Gravy
Just two rollergirls trying to share the rollerlove from Austin, TX to the world.