Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fessing Up: The “R” Word

It came as a surprise to me this morning that news of my retirement mentioned via Twitter came as a surprise to a fellow league mate and friend. I suppose I expected her to make the connection after I just haven’t been to practice in a month or so, but then I realized this evasive retirement technique is indeed confusing, and there’s no real reason for it other than my initial motivation: leaving skating is hard.

A large part of me hasn’t wanted to bring up the “R” word in any formal setting, because then I knew I’d have to mention it on here, and I’d really like to continue to live in the bubble where I assume that you readers out there read this blog because you like my writing or what I have to say regardless of my participation in derby (or focus on derby in the blog), but I’m not so sure that’s the case, and that scares me. Why? Well, the reason I’ve decided to retire is so that I have the time to make the transition to write as a full-time job, and I simply can’t make this transition while skating. We all know how much time derby requires, and I refuse to disrespect the sport and women I love by only participating half-ass, which I have been doing since the very beginning of this season. In a perfect world I would skate until I blow out every body part twice, but this world isn’t perfect, and I feel like I’m losing time to do the other things in life that I’ve wanted to do.

Over the years I’ve watched hundreds of women retire. Some stick around for a while, but most drop off the face of the earth. I never got that until now. There are a lot of conflicting feelings associated with leaving derby, mainly a loss of identity. The reason why we drop off the face of the earth is because the initial separation is confusing and scary. How does one start over outside the derby world? For five years I’ve answered more to “Lop-her” than I have my legal name. Who am I now? Am I no longer Cindy Lop-her because I don’t wear skates several times a week? But I like Cindy Lop-her more than I do the person on my driver’s license – I don’t want to go back to being that insecure, self-conscious person! It took a non-derby friend to tell me that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. That over the last five years I have become Cindy Lop-her full time, whether that’s how I’m formally addressed or not. I own who I am regardless of my status participating in a sport. Still, it’s difficult, and I have to remind myself not to revert to a lesser form almost daily. My mindset in the gym is a good example of that. When skating, I felt empowered that I was this 5’2” 175-lb “big girl” running like a champ on the treadmill. I held my head high and pushed myself far. When I ran I thought about the positive influence I might have on people, showing other big girls they can do whatever they want and challenging everyone else to think differently about a person’s ability based on their outside appearance. Last week I caught myself on the treadmill, 10-pounds heavier, without focus, and for the first time in a long time I felt insecure and unconfident. I felt like the people behind me were laughing instead of being impressed. And then I realized that they don’t know me from Adam. They didn’t know I had retired. Hell, they didn’t ever know I skated in the first place! Why was I allowing my perception of their judgment of my retirement affect my running?! I adjusted my attitude, and when I did that I resumed running like I used to.

Derby’s at times a conundrum: you learn all these valuable lessons within the sport that directly translate to life – give it your all, you can do anything you put your mind to, and practice like you play – but when it comes time to put these lessons into practice outside of derby, it can be a struggle like it was for me at the gym. Stepping back into the real world can be like entering a room that’s pitch black – just the thought of being there can cause panic – but let’s be real, we’re the same people on the track or in the dark, even though it may not feel like it. The only difference is that the track is well lit and we can see. But just like the room where the track’s located, even the room that’s pitch black has a light switch – we just have to find it. In this case, the switch is something within ourselves – it’s something we already have access to. For many of us, we learned how to turn it on because we joined derby. We learned how to work toward something that’s difficult to attain, we learned how to empower ourselves and others, and we learned how to deal with adversity. We have all the resources we need to turn on any switch in any room we enter, and that’s something we all need to remember, retired or not. Not only do we have the ability to replicate these things outside of derby, but we also have the ability (and the responsibility) to share how to do these things with people who don’t even know what derby is (and, yes, they must live under rocks). This is what I feel I must do with my writing.

Losing my very readership because I want to pursue being able to write more is something I’ve been struggling with, and although I feel like y’all don’t need me to pass you a flashlight on the track anymore, I would love it if you’d join me off the track and help pass out flashlights to non-derby people alike. That isn’t to say I want everyone to quit along with me, I’m just hoping that you’ll take what you’ve learned from derby and share it a bit with people who aren’t involved, while occasionally checking in here and reading my thoughts as I share them with a larger audience (same mission, larger venue). I’m in the process of specing out a new website that will merge this blog with my cooking blog and also provide a place where I can talk about a third cool thing if I want and post links to other things I’m writing. Eventually this address will direct you to the new site, where I will have an entire archive of Big Derby Girls Don’t Cry posts, as they exist here. It’s been a long, fun run. Through this site I’ve met many amazing people who inspire me to continue to push to elicit positive change, and I’m being 100% honest when I say that I couldn’t have skated like I skated or written like I’ve wrote if it wasn’t for you. As much as this blog seems like it’s intended to help and empower others, it’s gone leaps and bounds to help and empower me too. Thank you.

As for derby, I’m not 100% severed yet. I’m still an LLC owner for my league, but I will be taking a year off admin duties to get the writing up and running. And you can bet your ass that I’ll be at all our bouts (and maybe even some of yours) either in a non-skating capacity or as a spectator. I’m not completely giving up derby. I don’t think I could ever do that! After all, it IS the most awesome and amazing sport on the planet, and I’m committed to helping it reach a larger audience through whatever means in which I may be involved in the future. Derby’s in my blood. 

Until next time…