Last night at a camp in Ottawa, a skater asked me how I've managed to keep my enthusiasm for roller derby, over the years. If you'd like to know I'll share a few of my strategies with you.
Because it's definitely NOT because things have always been easy, or that things have always been fun. I don't keep the love alive because everyone loves me, plenty of people haven't over the years. I'm not still in love with roller derby because every aspect of it exists just to please me, I'm here because I want to be.
One way I've kept my spirits high is by taking breaks. If there's one aspect of derby that I can let go of for a while, I do. If the love dies, I go away until it comes back. It always does.
Another is by having reasons bigger than me to succeed. If I promise myself that for everything I accomplish, I'll empower others along the way... Then there's sufficient fuel to keep the fire going on the hard days. I think about all the people I could potentially inspire, just by striving to reach my own potential.
The thought of being a good example to someone else gets me through the days where I'm not selfish enough to do it just for me.
And most importantly: I stay because it keeps making me a better person. Every time I get over another mental or physical hurdle, every time I learn how to understand another personality type (sometimes through conflict), every time I level up to a more evolved version of me, I think...
Goddamn, where the fuck would I be without roller derby???
I know that not everyone is in this for self-improvement. But if you want to know what keeps me excited about the present, reflective on the past, and anticipating a bright future in roller derby.... That's some of it.
Day-to-day maintenance advice, more specifically, can be heard on my Happy Place Maintenance MP3.
And here's an example of how reflections of roller derby have made me a better person, if you're in the mood for story time:
When I was a 22 year old beginner, I quickly lost all care for "the real world," and treated roller derby like my friend, lover, and full time job.
In other words, when other people were hanging out on a Friday night, I'd be skating in the train station parking lot. When other people were having lunch with a friend, I was studying roller derby's history. When other people were watching TV, I was wearing my skates in my apartment, practicing agility drills on the carpet, or going up and down the stairs in my skates.
Going to the post office, grocery store, work? On skates. If the business wouldn't let me in on skates, they didn't get my money. I'd find one that would.
Now, during this time period I was also getting hated on pretty regularly at practice for my rapidly growing skills. And I remembered snide remarks like, "Well, if I was 22 I'd be skating like that, too."
Being 22 definitely had very little to do with the fact that back then, the average roller derby player spent 2-4 hours a week on skates. And I spent closer to 22 hours/week on mine. I'm pretty sure people had no idea that I could hear their petty comments. Lord knows I've been very forgiving. I still see a few of those people from time to time, and have always treated them with respect. But I never forgot.
Instead of getting bitter, or quitting, I decided to be a better person for this experience. I'll be 32 this year, and when I see a younger skater come into derby and quickly advance through the ranks I do exactly what a confident, secure, and good role model should do: I praise them for their efforts.
Would I have known to do this without the negative experience? Or would I do the perfectly natural thing and just hate on the fresh face because I'm feeling insecure about my own self? Hard to say.
But I do know that learning to embrace awesome and love shiny is a lesson that's continued to bring good in my life, and keep me inspired over the years. So it was well worth learning, and would I do it all again to have that quality? Absolutely.
What if there's more incredible qualities like that on just the other side of my next derby challenge or conflict?? So you see, I don't stay just for the good times, or because I'm a masochist... It's because roller derby is the single most amazing catalyst for growth that could ever exist.
If you want to look at it that way. <3