Even bigger shocker, I still play derby. I know, having not posted for two years, it seemed likely that I had gone the way of most of the people who have tried and played derby and quietly, resentfully, hung up my skates due to that dark force called Real Life Responsibilities. Ha. I've had a lot of time experience in dodging the adulting; it's unlikely to get at me at this stage in the game.
For the past two years I've had very little to say about the sport of roller derby or adult athletics. Publicly, at least. So I have been quiet here. Derby, for myself, is an inward journey of discovery. Or, if that seems a bit breezy, derby is my narcissistic preoccupation with awkward and painful activities in which I can't seem to win and must spend lots of money on.
Roller derby. Don't talk to me about roller derby.
But not posting so much is really okay. Reading back over some posts on Pick a Cheek here to familiarize myself with me, I noticed a stunning lack of change in attitude and environment over the past years. Though the jerseys and locations have changed, derby is just as hard, overwhelming, awkward and exhilarating today as it was five years ago. I love my derby people as much as I want to throttle them. Same old, same old.
What is new, though, right now, is this funny thing my league is trying. It's called an off-season and it's incredible. We have two months off of practicing and playing and it's the first time I've not derby skated for that amount of time. Which doesn't mean I haven't done league work or recreational skates, watched footage, attended meetings and socials, and even helped lead a practice with other league, but still. Still. Relatively speaking, this has been derby free time.
So I've been trying some new stuff. MMA fitness classes for one. Super fun. And I turned forty years old. Not so much fun but, despite my efforts, it was unavoidable.
At this age in the game, with a little breathing space of an off-season, naturally I've got a few questions for myself about this derby thing and how it's working for me. Y'know, overall. Even more than my usual calls to defend myself against queries about why I do something that I am just so not naturally suited for. (As if not being awesome at something is a reason to not do it.)
Long dark tea-time of the derby soul sort of stuff.
How do I measure personal success in this sport? If I went by sheer player ranking, I would of chucked my skates and settled down the couch with a truckload of bon bons a long time ago. So would ninety-five percent of the skaters. Obviously, we have worth beyond being the best of the best of the best.
Health wise, derby has taken my downhill rush and angled it towards a much brighter future. Mentally and physically. The only thing that terrifies my husband more than me perpetually playing derby is me not playing derby. Because that is a dark spiral of badness for my body and my brain. Sport keeps me healthy, yo.
How about growing the sport in general and supporting the community? Well, ahem, I feel I've done my share and, sparing you the gritty details, I will give myself a little check mark for that. Besides helping to ensure derby exists for myself and my community, I also have a girl child who lives and breaths for skating and her derby buds who looks forward to many years of derby derby derby.
On that side note, derby has been incredibly affirming for my children. Not lacking in complications or the occasional problem, of course, but within this sport both my junior player child and non-player child have found supportive community. For my girl, in particular, growing up in derby has provided a wealth of positive real life role models. Okay, smelly, foul-mouthed role models, yes, but who are also strong, capable, and demonstrate self worth. I like that when asked who her heroes are, my daughter will name real women that she knows personally, as opposed to movie or pop stars that are recited all too often. Though, technically speaking, she's also name book characters, so we'll not get too gaspy about all this.
Health, community and positive role models are pretty good, but I think that to determine if this sport thing is successful and worth it for me, I'm going to fall back less empirical notion of personal progress. By degrees, being better and better each day. Since change is inevitable, all things impermanent, I would like to focus my effort on channeling change in directions I choose. Mastery of my own fate and so on. And I'm not talking just about improving my derby play, oh no. That's really sort of the lowest measure. The question is, is derby instrumental in helping me be a better person?
As noted above, on the most fundamental level for me derby hasn't changed all that much over the years. It's like this endless loop (moving counter clock-wise) of challenge and duty. Admittedly, I'm in a pretty good spot right now. I love where I'm at and who is with me, but the nitty gritty of running a league, practicing and playing has had me splashing about in the same murky pool for five years now. Without something drastic, like the invention of time travel, perhaps, or the introduction of portals in space that can be used legally in game play (damn, how cool would that be?), I can foresee the derby will be the derby as I know it for the time being.
I try to keep my mindset, though, on learning from every angle I can. Meetings teach me patience and to listen to others. Practice helps me become stronger mentally as well as physically. Recruiting and promotions keep me in touch with the greater community and encountering new people. Watching new skaters grow confident and overcome their own personal obstacles is inspiring. Challenges are always opportunities for personal growth and, yes, derby supplies plenty of challenges.
So I guess it's all worth it.
Now hold up, I hear you say, given that it is a mindset of growth that makes the activity valuable, wouldn't almost any activity that provided physical challenge and other people actually teach the same lessons? Isn't it the desire to learn and improve is what is useful, not derby itself?
Yup. It doesn't have to be derby.
In fact, I do derby because I like it. I could do other things too. And I may, if I want to. In the meanwhile, this is still a pretty fun way to spend my Saturday night. And Monday night. And Thursdays. And Sunday afternoon...