Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Can't Top THAT

Last night over dinner with a coworker and a fellow conference attendee, we were having a discussion about tattoos, when it came to light (like it always does) that I "do roller derby". After a discussion of injuries and rules my dinner dates both commented, "Well, I can't top THAT," to which I replied, "Yeah, neither can I - I wish I was still skating."

Despite all the other drivers in derby, no one can deny the ever looming presence of ego - not only how ego plays into a derby persona, but how the ego of being a rollergirl plays into your non-derby life. For people outside derby, a rollergirl epitomizes coolness, toughness, and utterly complete independence. While I'm not quite sure how these same people view women who were once rollergirls (eg, retired skaters), I know that at an intuitive level I feel less cool, less tough, and less independent when I'm not actively skating as part of a team. I felt this way when I was out for the rest of a season with an injury, and I feel this way now as a retired skater.

In a way, derby is like an ultra super mega fun merry-go-round. Before you're ever on it, you can see that it looks like fun, and you want to jump on. While you're on it, it IS really fun. And when you inevitably have to get off the derby merry-go-round, you once again are on the outside looking in, only this time you know just how fun it is and you're really sad you're not on it. The reality is that derby is so popular right now that there's an ever-revolving door of new and different skaters, and there's this fear when you're injured or retired that you'll be forgotten by your team, by the derby community, and by derby fans at large, and these things in part or in whole can cause a person to lose a significant portion of self esteem that was at least partially gained while she was actively involved in derby. In short, it blows.

I've never experienced this type of separation anxiety in my life before. From a young age I was always anxious to move on to the next better thing. I moved out of my parents house when I was 18, and I never looked back. I was working full time before I finished college, and I never once longed to be a full-time student again. I've played a wide array of sports over the course of my life, but I've never once been so attached to one that I've allowed myself to be at least partially defined by it. Then there was derby. But, why?
I'm not confident that I know the answer to this, but I find it interesting that the global outsider's view of what a rollergirl is meshes with what I know to be true, and all this combined seems to put a spotlight on the fact that those labels and assumptions can no longer truly be applied to me. I'm Madonna in the 90s, or worse yet, the Baha Men. Who? Right. I reached a peak in my life that was me actively skating and now what? I don't know how to return to normal life. STILL. Will I ever do or find some other role to play in my life in which I'll be able to recreate or exceed the success I found in my participation in derby? I really hope so, because even though I feel like I'm really busy racing back and forth daily to do or find something that will give me the same high derby did, I'm not finding it. I've made myself really busy, but even within the chaos I've created, I'm tragically bored. At the end of the day, like my dinner dates, I can't "top THAT." And I want to.

For me, I feel better by staying involved with those who do still skate, and while I can no longer strap on my skates and block for my jammer, I can participate at the admin level and hopefully use my bank of institutional knowledge to propel our teams, our league, and our sport forward - a metaphorical whip from the sidelines. Still, I often feel like a shadow of who I once was. While I'd love to be physically able to skate again, I know doing so would only postpone my having to deal with these feelings later, and return to skating or not, I'd like to figure out how to happily move forward and at least "top THAT" in my own mind.