Monday, August 24, 2015

Life After Derby

A pin given to me in a birthday card last year.

This month marks one year since I retired from roller derby after suffering a head injury during a game. At this time last summer, I was still in the early stage of my recovery, wondering if I'd ever feel like myself again.

The answer to that question still isn't clear. Are any of us ever really "the same" after anything as we were before?

At my birthday party last August, I couldn't drink more than one beer and was devastated to discover I had to turn off the background music because all the sounds hurt my head too much.

As I prepare to celebrate my next birthday this week, I've been doing a bit of reflecting on my 36th year. (I'm a pretty reflective gal, if you haven't figured that out yet!)

I've realized that the past year has been about recovery and discovery for me. Recovering from my injury and all that entailed, physically as well as emotionally. And discovering who I am and what I want and need in life. I've tried a lot of new things and learned more about myself in the past few months than I ever imagined possible.

It's been a year since I played derby and I still miss it a great deal. When I got injured, I wondered who I'd be once I wasn't a "derby girl" any more. I've realized that a part of me will always be one. Even though I don't play anymore, I know that I'm capable of it and that's a powerful feeling.

Roller derby eliminated the shell I wore that separated the real me from the me I showed to the world. When you get knocked on your ass in front of a thousand people while wearing hot pants and fishnets, it's kinda hard to hide anything!

Roller derby allowed me to embrace who I am and who I strive to be. I formed strong bonds with like minded women (and a few men) who didn't judge me by my tattoos or the fact that I'm childless, and who helped me form a bad ass persona for myself based on the fact that I love candy.

Derby filled a void in me that I didn't even know I had. I had never played a team sport before. I miss the bond that I formed with my teammates. Now as I live a life without it, I wonder what will be next for me and where I might find that camaraderie. It's exciting to think there's something waiting for me that I haven't discovered yet.

If I had to sum up what I learned from roller derby in one phrase, it would be this: I can literally do anything I want to. I joined the team at age 33 and had never roller skated in my life.  Last weekend, I ran a relay race in the Grand Teton Mountains. It was tough. I sweat, I struggled, I cried. I turned into a monster from not getting sleep. But as I was pushing myself through seven miles with a 1,100 foot elevation gain, when I started to struggle I reminded myself  Hey, at least no one is chasing me or trying to hit me or stop me!

I've continued to support my derby team by going to bouts and fundraisers. My personal experience has allowed me to play a unique role for two of my former teammates who have retired in the past few months.

As I recovered from my head injury, I began to focus my energy on running, reading and writing. I've done some traveling and have tried my hand at floral design for the past few months.I am more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have been before. I have the confidence to wear whatever I want and braid my own pigtails!

Sure I'm a different person than I was before my head injury but I'm also a different person than the one who signed up for that 180 mile relay race!

It's fun to look back every so often and see the changes in myself. I've had experiences this year that I never would have anticipated at this point last summer. That's the beauty of change.

Teaching my niece to roller skate this summer.

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