Tuesday, January 6, 2009

First Day of The New School Year

Last night was our first night of practice for the 2009 roller derby season, and after an “off season” of two months or better we returned to that same rink at which we started nearly five years ago, many of us feeling close to the same anxiety levels as we had the very first day we walked in there. The smell of feet and disinfectant shoe spray couldn’t mask our fear. Fear that we wouldn’t remember how to skate. Fear that we could no longer skate. Fear that we we’d lost it. Fear that we sucked.

We didn’t necessarily move around what could be considered “a lot”, but as a child I lived in several different states, and it was always hard making the transition to a new school, be it the first day of that grade or smack dab in the middle of the year.

My first transition from preschool in Arizona to kindergarten in Georgia was the easiest. Not every kid had gone to preschool, and the school I went to for kindergarten didn’t have an associated preschool, so we were all in the same boat. Plus we had the added benefit of being young enough to be both excited about school and completely oblivious about “popularity” – it was a time when everyone was still friends with everyone (unless they peed their pants, in which case you didn’t want to be associated with a “baby”).

My second transition from Georgia in 3rd grade to Mississippi in 3rd grade was a bit more difficult. I hadn’t yet experienced the ways of the Deep South (aka, discrimination against anyone who wasn’t white and old money). I went into that first day of school green, but I came out several shades of melancholy. I remember exactly how I dressed. Excited to make new friends, I wore a white shirt and short set with multicolored polka dots, and I had put my hair in those pink foam curlers the night before so I would make an extra special impression. Apparently the only impression I made was “new chubby outsider”, something I never experienced before that day and something I never shook even through the very day I left that town.

My final transition was from Mississippi in 5th grade to Maryland in 5th grade. At this point, I was so terrified of another horrible transition that I was convinced I would rather stay the “new chubby outsider” to people who weren’t really my friends than risk trying to make a new impression all over again, but 5th graders don’t really get a choice, and I moved to Maryland with my parents. In Maryland everyone stared at me. They were mesmerized with my southern accent, which I consequently shook faster than two lambs’ tails. Not wanting to draw attention to myself, I tried hard to blend in, which is really hard for the tallest girl in her class who got a set of B-cup tits overnight about a year prior. I rebelled. It was better to be the “bad kid”, I thought, than to be the fat/ugly/southern/early-bloomer that I thought they might otherwise label me as.

In a way, being involved in derby is a lot like being back in school. Regardless of how hard you try to blend in, you’re going to be classified as something: fast or slow, vet or fresh meat, jammer or blocker or pivot, this team-member or that team-member, and ultimately, a good player or a mediocre player. Luckily, we really never use the word “bad” when describing someone’s skill level, yet that’s what we’re all afraid of: being bad.

Leading up to last night I talked to people who actually contemplated not returning for the season, because they thought they had fallen “too far behind”. My answer to them was a gentle reminder of my lack of practice during the off season in addition to my double shoulder injuries that kept me out of contact for the vast majority of the previous season. All the while, I tried not to consider how “bad” I would be and how many hurdles I would have to overcome because of the added time off.

But the truth was, I was nervous going into last night. Yes, I felt more prepared than I ever have because I’ve been running and working out so much since the shoulder injuries, but I was still terrified to walk in that door. Who would people see? Cindy Lop-her, the good-for-nothing perpetually injured player? Cindy Lop-her, the vet who once was good but lost “it” the year her dad died and never recovered after that? Cindy Lop-her, the girl who’s good at sponsorship but not at skating? As you can tell, we all have our insecurities. Regardless, I put on my new gold booty shorts, played some aggressive tunes in the car on the way to the rink, and all the way there repeated to myself, “I am the shit. I am the shit. I am the shit.” I knew I couldn’t let the fear consume me.

I got there early, immediately got on the rink, and did what I was told by the coaches. I gave it my all and kept telling myself that all I had to do was try. We got our asses kicked – all of us. The coaches orchestrated a world of hurt even for those of us who had been working out during our time off. If you’re a roller girl, you know that nothing aside from skating is a substitute for skating – there’s nothing you can do that works the same muscles. And last night was meant to dig in hard and build those muscles back up.

Aside from the minor inconveniences of having to readjust my skates no less than four different times (because I forgot how I like them tied) and having to head to the ladies room for a replacement cotton cork, I was no more worse for the wear than feeling like my legs were simply going to give out on me at any given moment in that last half hour. It’s funny, I was never actually in pain – all I felt was extreme fatigue. I think the running paid off as far as endurance goes, and I think my I-don’t-give-a-fuck-if-my-ass-is-round-and-I-actually-kinda-like-it-more-than-your-skinny-ass gold-booty-short wearing attitude helped me not feel panicked or hopeless or afraid that I couldn’t keep up. I kept up.

Sitting on the floor in a circle at the beginning of practice, we vets were muttering to each other how “I use to like roller derby” and “I don’t know if I can do this anymore”, but as we packed up for the night, Ballbricker came over to me and said, “I give us two weeks – two weeks and we’ll be back up to speed.” And it was the same as it always was and always will be: scared shitless at the beginning, but happy, confident, and looking forward to the next ass-whooping and now knowing that it will only make us better. Regardless of where you are, you come out a little bit better each time when you do something derby. Like Cheers, it’s a place where everybody knows your name and no matter what you think beforehand, everyone really is glad you came.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love roller derby? 2009 is going to be a great season.


Ashley DC said...

I'm anxious for our quasi-skating assessment for the new ref squad and am glad I am not the only one who feels like they have forgotten how to skate.

Big In Day-town said...

I've been out from our squad's practicing for a week due to bronchitis, and I miss the ass whuppin' dearly. Congrats on your succinct and successful return, Cindy!