My Ass Looks Like a Rorschack Test

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The Screaming Demon of Derby leaves his dark mark of possession

It’s hard to imagine I will ever be good at this, but it’s important to remember when I was new. Saturday was my first time on skates. It felt like I’d been bestowed the power of flight. And crashing. My brain feels ready to be comfortable on my skates already, but my body needs to learn the skills. The intersection of frustration is where the brain feels ready to do something, but the body still needs to learn the skills. Or vice versa.

With running, my body knew what to do. We just had to convince Brain that we wanted to run and that we were enjoying it (we don’t and we never are). Last weekend, I ran a 15k an unprecedented 20 minutes faster than last year, under far worse conditions (rain, no music). On skates, I want to fly, but my legs just do that cartoonish twisty baby giraffe on wheels thing.

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Meet my new friends

I now have a solid idea how hard this is going to be. Still, I’ve never wanted anything more. I’m looking forward to mastering T-Stops. Stopping seems to easy for everyone else, but I didn’t fall until I tried them. My wheels feel clunky and uncompromising. They don’t want to give me friction. They just want to STOP. And down I go. Stay low.

Stay low.

Hands on kneepads. Stay low.

 

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A New Chapter

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Through this door, your life’s about to change.

From the moment I heard the thunder of skates, derby had me. Immediately, I saw myself bursting through a paper banner to deafening roars from the crowd, making the rounds to Sparks Are Gonna Fly, skating backwards while swallowing fire (just kidding. That’s dangerous. Maybe). It wasn’t “I want to do this;” it was “I have to do this.”

I was volunteering at the first bout of the season to learn more about the sport, meet some skaters, ask questions and generally see if it was something I actually wanted to do. I’ve never  I wasn’t expecting the contact rush of adrenaline or the welcoming community of badass women who didn’t treat me as an outsider even as I asked a thousand questions- sometimes more than once- and then still not-so-stealthily googled gestures or terms as they happened.

I made a very patient friend that night. She invited me to a meet & greet the following Friday, which I almost didn’t go to because social anxiety. But I recruited a pal and got myself settled with a beer and met a few other skaters. The next day I walked into Five Stride and got outfitted with a rookie package before going to the warehouse to watch the level 3 skaters scrimmage (and a lot more googling).

To say I’m Fresh Meat feels a bit far too advanced. I am raw- not even butchered- meat. It’s safer to assume I’ve never been on skates than to try to remember when I last strapped a pair to my feet, but I imagined it would feel the same as it does when I’m in the water- part of it, made to move in it. Not so. As OMG WTF helped me up in my skates and I realized I could not let go of her hands, my fire skating carney/derby dreams dissolved into visions of myself landing on my face in the ashes.

I am not a patient person. If I am not immediately good at something, I get frustrated and give up. It’s why I can’t play an instrument more advanced than a kazoo. As I stood there, wobbling to find my center, I understood this about myself. But roller derby doesn’t feel like despondent piano lessons or the cheap Fender bass my mom dusted off and sold at a yard sale years ago.

Roller derby feels like fire in my chest. Even if my feet don’t know it yet. I can barely imagine doing some of the footwork I’ve seen the advanced girls do. Hell, I can’t imagine propelling myself forward on skates without a slightly warped floor and gravity.

The first question I’ve been getting from everyone is “aren’t you afraid to fall?” No. Falling is inevitable. I know I’ll fall. A lot. I’m afraid I’m going to quit. So I’m going to document this journey from the very beginning because I am in LOVE with this thing I can not yet do. In 11 weeks when I can (hopefully) make it around the track and stop without running into walls, I want to remember that moment in the skate shop when I couldn’t even stand on wheels by myself. And I want to apply that memory to every frustration I have in the next round of Basic Training. And the next. And tryouts. And one day, with a team of supportive and fierce ladies who all started out wobbling.