How Roller Derby Saved My Soul…

I heard this song by Rachel Platten a few days ago (and, yes, I realize it is now in a car commercial).

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

It made me think about the past few years of my life and roller derby specifically.  I get a lot of questions from people like “Why the hell would you ever want to play roller derby?”

You see, roller derby fundamentally changed my life for the better.  I wouldn’t change a minute of it. Let me explain.

I had been stalking local roller derby teams for over a year.  It sounded like the most fun.  I loved roller skating when I was a kid and I thought this was an opportunity to do it as an adult.  I read Facebook posts, studied the rules, and followed all of the local teams.  I bought all of my gear, but still had not worked up the nerve to actually attend a practice.  Why?  I was scared to death.  Scared I wouldn’t fit in.  Scared I’d fall.  Scared I’d make a fool out of myself.  So, for over a year, I sat staring at my brand new pair of skates and trying to muster the balls to go to practice.

Then, something amazing happened.  My friend, Morgan, suddenly tells me that she has joined a roller derby team and she thinks I should come to practice with her.  She continued to pester me every week until I finally showed up one Sunday night. My fears of fitting in were quickly gone.  There were women of all different ages, sizes, professions, races and they greeted me like an old friend.  It was clear that there was no “fitting in” in roller derby.

There was a girl named Straight Jackie who was assigned to show me the derby ropes.  She was 18, had a bright pink mohawk, and was wearing the cutest red sailor dress I’ve ever seen.  In my 36 years, I’d never seen anyone like her and I suddenly wanted to BE her.  She was testing my skills and I kept repeating “I don’t want to fall.  I’m scared to fall.”  After I whined about falling the 100th time, Jackie shoved me to the ground with all her might.  I looked at her with a stare that said, “This crazy bitch half my age just knocked me to the ground.  Who do you think you are?”.  She simply said to me, “There.  You fell.  You didn’t die.  Get back up and let’s do it again.”  At that moment, I realized life really was that simple.  You fall.  You fail.  You get back up.  You survive.

When I joined the roller derby team, I was in a really bad place in my life.  I was in a miserable relationship (we were both miserable…not just me), I hated my job, I missed my family, I was overwhelmed.  I was doing everything for everyone else…kids, work, boyfriend, school, community, friends…but, I had nothing that was for me.  I was unhappy and stressed out.  I was drinking too much and avoiding reality.  I think there was maybe one friend who actually knew how bad things had gotten and what a terrible spot I was in.  I was excellent at pushing down my feelings and pretending things were A-OK.  I knew, however, it was only a matter of time before the facade I’d built came crumbling down.

Derby gave me an escape from all of that.  It gave me a place where I could truly be myself for the first time in a long time.  I finally found the old Ginger again.  I found new friends who loved me, flaws and all.  I realized that I could get knocked down a million times and still get back up.  I discovered that nothing makes you feel quite as powerful as having bruises all over your body and knowing that you earned every last one of them.

Derby gave me the courage to leave my bad relationship.  It gave me the strength to be my authentic self.  Roller derby has made me a better mother because I have an outlet for my stress.  Without derby, I never would’ve had the guts to go on an online dating site and meet the wonderful man who would become my husband.

People are amazed that I still plan to continue playing once my ankle is healed.  Why would I leave something I love so much behind?  It would be like abandoning an old friend.  An old friend who made you discover a strength inside yourself that you never knew you had.

For all of you considering stepping out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend it.  Train for that marathon.  Go skydiving.  Strap on some skates.  Travel to a new location.  Change jobs.  Go back to school.  You’ll be amazed how much letting go of your fear will change your life for the better.

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