How Can You Thank Someone…?

Dear Lady K,

I came to see The Chicago Outfit play in October 2010.  Having seen a certain roller derby movie, I wanted to check out the game for myself while I was travelling in the U.S.

I spoke to you at the merch stand. I didn’t have enough money to buy a singlet but somebody nearby found five bucks on the floor and we decided that it was fate intervening so that I could get the merch I wanted. You also gave me a free button, which, sadly, has since fallen off my bag and disappeared. I told you that I thought the game was amazing. You told me that I should join up. I told you that I didn’t think they had roller derby in Melbourne, where I’m from. You told me that the scene was growing and Melbourne was a part of that, and that I should join up.  I started brainstorming derby names.

A few months later, back home, I went to the local rink for a casual Saturday skate class mainly made up of obnoxious seven-year-olds. I fell on my arse and sprained my wrist so badly that I couldn’t work for two and a half weeks. The rink staff didn’t expect to see me again.

I came back three weeks later, much to their surprise. After a few months of lessons I found a group of interesting, inspiring, funny, caring women in a nearby league that had casual classes, which suited my commitment-phobia perfectly. I was enjoying exercise and sport for the first time in my life. I overheard my Dad, with whom I have a somewhat tense relationship, telling his friend on the phone that he was proud of me for my commitment and determination. I broke my hand, and after 3 months off-skates I cried with joy when I put them back on again. I cried often, with joy and shock at passing each skills test, and with frustration at myself and the overwhelming learning curve of scrimmage.

Through derby I have found a new kind of self-worth and awareness that has crossed into the rest of my life. It allows me to stand up for myself in ways I never could before.  I’m proud of my body now. I view it as a powerful tool to be used, rather than being anxious over it as something to be looked at and judged.

I want to thank you, Lady K, for one tiny conversation that changed everything for me. I know you’ll understand, because although everybody’s derby story is different, we’re all part of something amazing and if you didn’t feel how I feel about derby then you wouldn’t have had that conversation with me in the first place.

In two weeks, I will be competing in my first bout. I will be representing East Vic Roller Derby as part of our travel team, The Witches of EastVic, at the VIC/TAS Tournament.  I’m probably going to cry.  I’m so proud to skate with the women on my team, and so grateful that I get the chance to live this adventure.

A few honest minutes of your time that you probably don’t even remember has made my world infinitely better. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without derby. I can only hope that when little girls come up to me at the rink, or if some derby fan speaks to me at a bout in future, I can have some kind of positive impact on them too.  I hope also that I can continue learning and be a good enough skater to earn their respect, like you and so many others have earned mine.

Thankyou, so very much.

G-Wrex
East Vic Roller Derby
Australia

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How Much Difference A Year Makes

Last Friday was my first derbyversary. I have mixed feelings about this, as many people do about birthdays as they get older. On one hand I’m grateful to have all of the things I have because of this last year – but on the other, I feel disappointed that I haven’t achieved more.

I could go on for a while about how frustrated and ashamed I am because of how far I haven’t gotten in a year, but what would be the point? I cannot change it. It’s out of my control. The only thing I can do is keep focussed and keep pushing myself towards where I want to be.

So on this derbyversary, I will be grateful.

Derby has changed my life.

Never before have I enjoyed sports or craved exercise. Through derby I found a pilot light, and even though sometimes when I have a bad day, I think about going to training and I get a pathetic flick-flick-flick – I just have to keep pushing the button, and once I get started the flame just takes off. At the end of the session I always want to keep my skates on and keep moving my body.  When I go for a skate in the morning, my legs feel strong and powerful in the afternoon.

Derby has challenged me not only physically but mentally. It has challenged my very beliefs. There are ways of thinking that seemed natural to me before, ideas about possession and identity that this society has brought me up on, and that I have since realised are not healthy and are not the way things have to be.  There is still a way to go before I can let go of some things, but I like to think I’m on my way. I have shared so much with the women and men in my league, which before I would not have been willing to do.

Derby has given me a new group of friends that I would not otherwise have made. With this fresh group of people, I have been able to have a fresh start.  I haven’t reinvented myself as such – but I have given myself permission to be the person that I want to be, the person that has been trying to be heard in other areas of my life. I don’t know if the problem in other areas began with people treating me badly or with me letting them – but I decided about 9 months ago that there is no way in hell I’m going to put up with shit like that from anyone at derby. I simply will not let it start. There have only been a couple of people out of the dozens of derby people that I’ve met who have given me attitude or negativity – but now I won’t allow myself to be belittled or put down. I won’t allow anyone to talk down to me or batter my self esteem like they do in my other worlds. And you know what? It’s carrying over. Slowly but surely I am standing up for myself more often at work or with friends who don’t treat me as respectfully as my derby friends do.

I think that derby can make you a better version of yourself, if you just let it.

Happy derbday to me, and oh so many happy returns. ❤