Thursday, July 2, 2009

Panic in Detroit

For a girl who named her blog Big Derby Girls don’t Cry, I sure do cry a lot. Although I don’t ever cry because I’m a big girl – I cry for other reasons. Christ, I cry over derby all the time. I guess I just love it that much though, which really isn't a bad thing.

My most recent crying episode took place where else but at ECE, the East Coast Derby Extravaganza hosted by the Philly Rollergirls in Feasterville last weekend (I hate the name of that town – it reminds me of a festering wound…).

Having completed our victory lap and spectator high-five hand slapping following our second game of the weekend versus Detroit, I made my way to the locker room as quickly as possible, not exactly busting out in tears, but more like unsuccessfully holding them in as soon as I entered the room. It's like when you have to pee really badly and you know you're close to a bathroom - you could have held it for well over an hour already, but once your bladder knows you're almost there it becomes so much harder to hold it in. Luckily my bag was in the corner so I could position myself so my teammates couldn't see the tears leaking out of my eyes.

Forty minutes into the game when I realized I probably wouldn’t be placed in another jam I gave myself permission to cry once I made it through the game and out of the locker room with my packed-up skate bag. It was all I could do several times in the last half in order to not burst into tears right there on the bench.

I was first into the locker room, but my teammates quickly filed in behind me – I had just several more items to gather when with a big booming post-victory voice I hear Lady Quebeaum say, “Cindy LOP-HERRRR!!! You have a fan outside who’s waiting to meet YOU!!!”

In one word: fuck.

A fan? What fan? I don’t have fans. For fucks sake, I thought, is this a joke? I only played in 2 jams today. Who the fuck wants to see ME???

“I’ll be there in a minute,” I said, still facing the corner of the room. I needed an exit plan and soon, because before long I wouldn’t be able to contain the emotions any longer and I didn’t want to experience the crying equivalent of pissing my pants right there in front of my team or whomever this so called fan was. Pretending to wipe away sweat, I dried my eyes and made a B-line for the door and from the door to the hallway behind the rink, looking straight ahead, not making eye contact with anyone. I swear I must have made it not 10 steps before I hear my name being called. Busted.

It was an old ref friend, Howie Swerve, who started reffing here in Baltimore but who had since moved out of state. I’ve run into him since he’s moved now and again, but I hadn’t seen him in a while. He wanted to introduce me to his friend. Trying not to sound like a douche, I started yammering about how I just had to run to my car. Howie said it would only take a second. I then had to take off my sunglasses and show him I was crying – the real reason I was avoiding meeting his friend. Embarrassed much?

At the time I couldn’t think clearly enough to pinpoint exactly why I was so upset, but I did know that it would look like I was being a spoiled impatient brat who expects to be handed whatever she wants, including vast amounts of play time, so I knew well enough to hide the tears from my team, because I didn’t want them to get the wrong impression. I love my team. And it was only several hours later that I realized what had hurt me most: I felt so close to my team going into this game, but after riding that bench so hard I should have gotten ass splinters I couldn’t have felt more further away, and it hurt.

When I was in grade school we seemed to move to a different state every 3 years. Just as soon as I finally seemed to be making headway by establishing friendships with the kids in my new school, it was time to go again. I remember the feelings of anxiety and utter isolation that consumed me in the initial days and weeks at my new schools. I felt those same feelings when I first made the team. I was unsure what the team dynamic would be, and I was afraid my teammates would be so fiercely competitive for those roster spots and game time that they might not be too accepting of my being there. Luckily, I was wrong.

My team is an amazing group of women who are so supportive of each other that even those girls who know they’re going up against each other for that last roster spot before alternate want to see each other succeed and help each other get better during practice. It’s truly amazing to be a part of this.

But what about the mere 2 jams, you ask. I was more surprised than anything, and I certainly wasn’t angry. I went into the game with expectations that I would play as much if not more than I played in the Carolina game, since Carolina is ranked higher than Detroit. Coming out of that game and my 2 jams, I was shocked and confused and sad. But like I said earlier, I was most upset that I felt like I was no longer part of the team – a feeling similar to that of my first day at a new school or my first practice as an All Star – a feeling that exists only in my mind and, sadly, is only of my own creation.

It was hard walking to my car after I talked to Howie. With my uniform tee still on, derby friends I know and don’t get to see all that often were walking by me saying “good game” and “nice win”. I felt like an imposter saying “thank you” with teary eyes behind my sunglasses, because at the time I felt that I didn’t really contribute – that I wasn’t part of the team that took that win.

I’ve since had time to think about things, gain perspective, and calm down. I’ve also had time to contact Howie, get his friend’s email addy, and send her a note apologizing for my lack of togetherness last weekend. Luckily, the feeling of being alienated from my team subsided in about a day, and I’ve been fine since.

I did learn several things from this whole experience. First, as much as anxiety creeps up on me before a game and makes me think that maybe I don’t really want to play derby, I now know without a doubt that I do indeed want to play. Second, my place on the team never went away or became less important than anyone else's place on our team – the feeling of alienation was something I created in my own mind. Third, communication is key. Like Dolly said to me yesterday, “It’s like a relationship, you’re never going to get what you want unless you ask for it.” I slipped through the cracks, so to speak – it wasn’t intentional that I was only placed in 2 jams. Bouts are chaotic and now I know to say something nicely and politely to the bench coach if it’s been a damn good while since I was last in the game. Lastly, tomorrow’s another day. Today may be good, today may be bad, but the potential to make tomorrow better than today exists with us all. Although I must continue to work on improving my personal skill as a player, I also need to learn to be less hard on myself. After all, I’ve got a fan. Holy crap, that’s cool.


Kari T. Ryder Wilkie said...

Thank you for posting this. I sometimes feel the same way and it really sucks. The worst thing, as you point out, is the feeling that you are not really part of the team, and that whether you win or lose, it has very little to do with you. It's a hard thing (for me) to get past when the thing I love the most about derby is being a part of a team.

Midlife said...

An echo of my feelings too. It was so painful when I realized I wasn't gonna be a star player, not yet...maybe never.

But it also made me step back and reprioritize why I started derby in the first place. So, I probably won't ever be "the oldest jammer at Nationals." But rediscovering the sheer joy of playing roller derby? It's a good tradeoff.

Cindy Lop-her said...

Midlife, you hit on the key word here: "YET"

I'm officially challenging you now. I wanna see your ass jam at Nationals. Maybe it won't be 2009 Nationals, but 2010? Make it happen.

If I've learned anything this past year coming back from injury and general mediocraty as player before that, anything can be accomplished that you put your mind to. It may take time, but if you want it bad enough you can make forward progress.

Keep us posted as to your jamming status. I know you can do this. Harness the power of the booty!!!

Morbid Cherub....just call me Morbid said...

I know exactly how you felt that day. Having been moved to alternate status from the charter I had always been on from the get-go due to a lingering back issue was a painful experience - one that still hurts every time I go to an all star practice. Many times I feel as though Im not part of the team, that I dont belong anymore. When the team wins, I feel extra crappy because I didnt contribute, when they lose I feel crappy because I couldnt help them do better. Sometimes I wonder if the feeling will change when Im fully healed and back on the charter.

Thank you for writing this. Even if I feel alone on my team, Im not alone in the derby world.