Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Great Expectations

We all experience times if life where we’re met with the unexpected.

I grow anxious relying on other people, because there’s just no guarantee that things are going to happen the way I’d like them to happen, yet over this past year I’ve been trying to make amends with my intense need to control everything around me. I’ve been relying more on others to carry the load and make decisions that once consumed my time, knowing that things might not always get done the way I would do them, but they will get done nonetheless. The results of this in my professional life have been pretty good. My time has been largely freed up so that I can manage the big picture, while leaving the details and the mechanism with which we arrive at attaining our overall goals to people with whom I work (I’m a Project Manager). Derby? That’s another story entirely.

Sometimes (okay, many, many times) I get frustrated that my natural abilities lie more with things like building budgets than with being an excellent derby player. I mention budgeting only because it’s something I just finished doing that I did incredibly fast and well. When my boss complimented my mad budgeting skills, I was thrilled, but then my thoughts immediately turned to longing for that same type of praise with my performance as a skater. It just doesn’t come natural to me.

Much like I take being able to build a budget for granted, I’m sure many skaters out there who have natural skating and athletic ability take their position on a roster for granted. Not me. It’s an anxiety-ridden nightmare in the weeks leading up to roster selection for an All Star bout. I get sick to my stomach each month, hoping and praying that I’m playing well enough to stay at the bottom of the roster. It seems no matter how hard I try, I’m just mediocre, so I follow the rules of being rostered prior to each game, hoping the skill I’ve shown at practice and my attendance and attitude will win me a spot on the roster. The days leading up to our captains’ selection are filled with my constant comparison of myself to other skaters in a similar position as me. Did they make attendance? How are they playing? What could they have over me that would make them rostered and me not? Then, once the roster comes out or the plane tickets are purchased, I breathe a sigh of relief and can then just focus on playing derby instead of competing for a spot to play derby.

But the “rules” of being rostered, as I know them and as I alluded to above, are not always followed. After really good performance at home against Philly, I was totally amped to travel to Chicago and play Windy City – a team I’ve wanted a piece of for a while. I had been feeling good about my ability and comfortable in my position for the first time all season. Now, with one game left I could get out on the track and just do my thing with my ladies. Or maybe not. Completely blindsided, I was told 15 minutes before we left for the venue that I wouldn’t be playing in the game. Confused as hell, because I thought I was just starting to excel, I was told that with this being our last game before regionals, our captains needed to be able to see if several other skaters were prepared for the level of game play we would face at regionals. It wasn’t because I was sucking – it was because they were confident that I could play at that level after watching me play against Philly. After a period of disbelief in this reasoning, I got really upset. I followed the rules, I worked hard, and the reward for that is being rostered – getting to play. Only this time it wasn’t. I felt completely jipped! And if I wasn’t going to play, why the hell did they bring me to Chicago?! What was a really great trip instantly turned to shit, and if I could have afforded to buy another plane ticket fly home right then, you better believe that I would have.

Then there’s the perception of others… I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t care what other people think about me in derby. I do. And everyone else knows the unwritten rules of being rostered just as well as I do, which means assumptions would be made, and I’m sure they were made.

Back to natural talent. If I had natural skating ability like many women I know, I wouldn’t have ever been placed in this situation. The same can’t be said for budgeting. If you’re not a natural at budgeting, there is no horrible consequence that evokes a strong emotional reaction. Sure, maybe you have to spend more time redoing the budget, but it’s not like there’s a chance you don’t get paid because someone else in another department can budget better than you. And work doesn’t make me emotional. Derby, on the other hand, makes me incredibly emotional. Why? I actually think I’d enjoy derby a hell of a lot more if I cared a whole lot less about it, but therein lies the catch 22: I’m simply not naturally talented enough to care about it less and still be able to play well. My emotional health could be good, but I’d never get rostered.

I train out of fear. I try out of fear. Sure, I want to get better, but my biggest derby motivator is fear, and I don’t know how to change that. Thing is, I’m so freaking tired of living in fear of not being rostered each month – SO TIRED. What do I do to change this? How do I find some sort of balance that makes me less crazy in the head yet still in the running for a roster spot? If anyone out there knows, this girl would love to be hit over the head with a hint.

I’ve evolved a lot over the last three seasons. I went from the really fucked up mindset of “I’ve been here since the beginning, so I deserve a spot on the roster” and completely not giving derby my all to knowing it’s not about who you are or how long you’ve played – it’s about how good you are, and if you want to compete, you have to be good enough to compete, so now I do give it my all. I suppose I can’t be all that upset – I did accomplish many of my personal goals I set for last season: I made the All Stars and played in bouts against top-ranked teams. I still just want to be better so I can get out from under the stress associated with being at the bottom of the roster.

It’s difficult not to go into anything without expectations, and it’s especially difficult not to have expectations for something you’ve been involved with for so long, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past season, it’s that it’s foolish to have expectations that allow you to be set up for misery. Loving derby in the long term is like loving a long-term partner who always keeps you on your toes. After a while you grow to expect things to be a certain way, but they aren’t always like that. Turns out you need your partner more than your partner needs you. At times it can be a shitty relationship to be in, but you keep going back to derby because the allure is like nothing you’ve ever experienced, and although you often get hurt by it, you still can’t imagine you life without it. At least that’s how I feel.

1 comment:

Barracuda said...

I feel the same. You're so lucky to have the talented skaters and league you do to teach and guide you. I would kill for that kind of talent in my realm. Being at the 'top' of the depth chart has it's major issues too. Be thankful for the hurdles you have before you, when you've got natural ability the hurdles are hard to jump because competition is a better motivator than sheer self will sometimes.