This weekend’s plan was to get away. I had been cutting firewood and prepared myself to escape into the woods and go camping for a few days to find clarity, focus, and to center myself. On Friday morning as I was packing my car, one of the last logs I placed in my trunk slipped and a stick popped up and right into my eye.
Ever since I turned 30, I’ve had this realization that when something happens, it’s best to get it checked out before it becomes a problem. Since adopting this in action, I’ve saved my ass more times than I can count. Initially I’d go to the doctor to rule things out, then I realized uuuuh yeah, shit happens, especially as an athlete and one who can be a bit of a klutz, so best to play it smart. The eye was hurt and my camping trip was postponed.
So, instead of run and get insight, I had to stay in and get introspection. Moreover, I wasn’t allowed to be alone. Turns out, I needed help. I’ve got the very good fortune of having great friends and got help getting everything taken care of on Friday, and spent the rest of the day in sunglasses, shades drawn, giving my eyes a rest.
Saturday I didn’t expect to be doing as well as I was, and neither was my doctor! I had a great check-up and got the okay to drive. Since I was doing so well, I decided to drive to Gainesville and surprise my friends playing in a bout 🙂 It was a great trip and I got to see a lot of awesome folks, and surprising people is among the best gifts we can give people ❤
Today I got to have a beach day with derby friends and their families, and it was the best time 🙂 The day flew by and we had an amazing time just hanging out, laughing, sharing stories, swimming, boogie boarding, and oooh my goodness, was there so much food! Just like any great family gathering, there’s always plenty of food 🙂
One of my buddies was sharing with me a bit of his perspective being involved in this community, and it was good to hear because it gives us an opportunity to know our family a bit better. When anyone comes into this, on or off skates, it *is* a challenge and a test to get involved in the community. We invest in people and they leave, give up, or they don’t stay interested enough to really get a lot out of it. It’s a hard community to get into because our hides are thick from not only the physical battle of the conditioning involved to play roller derby, but the time, commitment, and investment we all have to make and the compromises and sacrifices we have to make to train, to play, and to run our leagues.
This was such a hard concept for me to grasp when I first started. I’d think, “I’m a professional, why don’t these people listen to me? I can promote the shit out of this stuff.” and it had nothing to do with my abilities, but where I was in the “pack”, so to speak 😉 I steamrolled into this culture, ready to work my ass off and earn my spot and earn the gifts I’d seen exhibited so often on the track. I knew what I needed to do physically and mentally to succeed, but reaaaally struggled with how to fit into the culture.
It can’t be forced; it’s an investment that takes a lot of time, and a lot of vested interest. Effort, getting to genuinely know people, and to encourage and befriend people with NO incentive other than to be a part of the same family. Hey if more grows from that, great, but many have failed by trying to infiltrate and be greedy.
My buddy that I was speaking with was neither a skater nor an official, so his perspective of roller derby is solely from an observer, in a sense. He’s involved, but not in the play or strategic aspect. He said that he’s been involved for three seasons now, and he *finally* feels like we’ve taken him in as family.
He said, “there are drug cartels that are easier to get into than this community.”
I said it’s the difference between a, “hey, buddy” (and I gave him a little tap tap on his shoulder) and “HAAAAY MAN!” (followed by a big hug), and he said, “EXACTLY!!!”
We also agreed that these are the three most common things we are asked about roller derby:
1) Do y’all get paid?
2) You’re around all those girls…do you just sleep with them all?
3) IS IT STAGED
The answers to all three is NO.
No #1 – Actually, it’s quite expensive for us to play. We PAY to play. We PAY to do this. Training and practicing is hard work, but it’s also just as much work running a league. Leagues are skater owned, which means the business is taken care of by the members. So not only do we have to be athletes, we have to make sure we are running an organization well enough to keep it alive. The skating and training is time-intensive, and it’s just as important to do the off-skates work, as a team, to keep the team alive.
No #2. Though I can’t answer for everyone, I can say from my own perspective that I don’t dip my dick in my derby. The derby world is small enough and the lesbian community is a microcosm, so imagine how small the gay derby circle is?!
I love my derby girls dearly, not queerly 🙂 It keeps things focused on the sport, and ultimately, the fun of it!
I will say, however, in time I’ve also learned that amazing things blossom when the right things come into our lives, and sometimes, we have to look over our “rules” to get different results. So, all of these are pretty much “in general”, because in all truth, there are some folks out there that are sponsored and some are paid skaters. And some skaters are married, and skate for the same team. There are exceptions, but as a whole, we don’t go into this (and stick around) for the sake of chasing tail.
No #3 – this is a legitimate sport with rules, and an international stage. Hundreds of teams exist on the big levels (like WFTDA, MRDA and JRDA), and hundreds if not thousands exist on the recreational level. We have rules, officials, strategy, training, practice, and so much more that we do and invest in to make our leagues and our sport successful.
It IS a hard community to get into, and if you look around, you’ll see it’s a goldmine that has yet to be fully discovered. There’s an immense amount of value, and we have a big job ahead of us to not only keep ourselves conditioned, but to make a good name for our sport to help proliferate it.
An enormous mix of people come into this and it takes a bit for us to find who will stick it through with us (the faces change so often and people come and go all the time), so it’s not personal when we don’t become besties right away and invite you over to our houses for our social events. It’s not personal.
We know what it feels like, so give us time and invest in us, and you’ll find we’ll warm up to you as well 🙂
As long as you’re not a douchepoodle 🙂
That last one was for my friend Doc, and God bless for quick healing ❤ Big love to our girl BJ as well, prayers for that big smile to stay wide and genuine ❤
The original plan for me this weekend was to get out and get introspective for growth ideas. What happened was my vision got botched for me to learn that I didn’t need solitude, I needed companions to remind me that I don’t need to grow, be better, or improve. I just need to be me, to be real, and to realize I’m loved and accepted as I am.
After paying my dues for so long in this community, I stopped caring about fitting in and just let myself be authentic. Since doing that, the genuine interest and love for the sport, the culture and the community grew, and instead of care about fitting in for my good, I cared about keeping the community alive and letting the culture thrive. I sang the song of cheerleader and uplifted people, because I needed that uplifting and I figured the best way to do it was to enable growth around me. People grew much faster than I did, and I’m thrilled with their success and focused on building on what I had. I became a different skater than I imaged I would, but I’m authentic and unique, and there really is one and only one Smash Tank 😉
Losing a bit of my sight gave me the opportunity to see beyond what’s a solution in my mind, and just accept what happens. My time freed up in ways I didn’t think, and things turned out pretty spectacularly 🙂
It’s pretty wonderful what happens when I get out of my own head, and just surrender to what’s possible 😀