First, know this: I roller skated a lot as a kid. The highlight of my week involved the outdoor skating rink on Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii.
That's me in the white and blue striped sweater.
After we left Hawaii, I sort of hung up my skates--not for any dramatic reason, but because it wasn't a thing to do at the next place I lived. But skating proved to be like bike riding: once you learn, you don't forget.
Cut to 2014. For my birthday, I wanted to see a roller derby match. Maine has quite the roller derby community, and so off to the Expo we went.
Here's what I remember most about that match:
1) The women looked sooooooooo bad-ass. They had crazy names, face paint, muscles, and spunk.
2) The actual amount of forward-progress skating was alarmingly little, except for the Jammers. A lot of the action reminded me of football running plays that don't go anywhere.
3) Skaters sometimes fell so hard it made my bones ache.
4) I wanted to try it.
I learned about Derby Lite that day, as well.
Train like the roller derby skaters? But don't actually mash into anybody?
It sounded perfect for me. (It might be perfect for you. Consider trying it!)
Many of the skaters on the derby teams in my area started out at Derby Lite. So who knew? Maybe I'd get the confidence and eventually be one of those fierce ladies I loved watching that day in May.
I signed up and geared up. I had never before skated while wearing a helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards, knee pads, and a mouth guard. I got my gear (skates and all) at Turn Two Skate Shop in Portland, with the supportive assistance of Grim D. Mise.
Grim D. Mise (oh-my-gosh-she-is-so-amazing)
And so I began my year of skating with Derby Lite.
If you're curious about whether or not I made it to an actual roller derby team and don't have time to read on, I'll spare you the suspense: I did not. Not even close.
I want to write that classes were super fun. I think they are super fun for lots and lots of people. Wonderful women join Derby Lite. Wonderful women coach Derby Lite. Everyone is supportive, helpful, friendly. Some women in the beginner class cannot skate at all, and others have been skating since they were kids. Everyone is welcomed.
And on my first day, I felt pretty good--I could zip around the rink no problem. We learned to fall that day--forward, onto our knee, elbow, and wrist guards. Over and over again we threw ourselves to the ground.
As the classes went on, though, I noticed several things:
1) I wasn't really improving. I joined with a friend who also knew how to skate some, but I could out-skate her pretty easily. But before long, she was out-skating me. I could see her improvement. I couldn't see mine.
2) I began dreading what class would require each week. There was no published syllabus--we just showed up and did the drills. I usually felt pretty good by the end of class, but the distress caused by wondering if we were going to do something hard or scary made me struggle to get in the car and go. Fear ≠ Fun.
3) While driving in with my friend, I kept making comparisons to the dance classes I had taken for years. At one point she finally said, "Do you think maybe you need to go back to dance?" Talk about an ah-ha moment.
So what happened? What was my problem?
Fear of crashing. Fear of falling. Fear of getting hurt.
The gals who progressed fastest in the class really threw themselves into it--literally. One woman could not skate at all on day one. She fell constantly. By the year's end, she was flying past me, crossing over, weaving between people. And still falling with some regularity because she continued to push herself.
I didn't have that in me. I was afraid to fall. So I didn't push myself and didn't improve much.
And worse, I became more and more afraid as the year went on. I used to have no trouble going to regular open-skate nights at the local rink to practice, but now? I'm nervous about it.
It seems absurd that my fear has grown with more skating practice, not to mention more protective gear. But there it is.
And it's a bummer. I've got $300 worth of roller skating gear languishing in my closet. I love my skates. But I rarely put them on.
Who practices and gets worse at something? This faint-hearted adventurer, that's who.