As much as I love derby (and I really do) I always dread going to practice. All day long I’m totally psyched about getting back into my skates, and then it hits me out of nowhere, that feeling of terror. My hands start to sweat and shake, my neck and back get tense, I can hardly breathe, and I feel like I’m gonna puke. I worry that I won’t be able to leave the outside world off the track. I get that feeling about an hour before every practice. Usually it’s because I’ve had a rough day and I’m in a crappy mood, I’m stressed, sleep-deprived, and/or just plain exhausted. I could think of a thousand excuses not to go to practice on any given night, but I don’t. I trust in derby and the good feeling I know it will bring. I drag my ass to practice.
I’m not, nor may ever be one of those girls that can block out all of her negative emotions as she crosses the threshold onto the track. I just put on a smile, tell everyone “hello,” and put on my skates and my gear. When I get all my gear on, I feel bound and constricted and hot. My skates feel like they weigh a ton. I think, “How the hell am I gonna get through this?” Once again, I trust in derby. I drag my ass onto the track.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I start to feel good again, psyched again. It happens though. It happens every time. Roller derby is cathartic. It lets you, or rather, makes you get rid of all the bad thoughts that you dragged with you into practice, and replaces them with nothing but full-on derby love. Being allowed to be aggressive is great. It’s something we don’t get in the real world. Case in point: When that jerk cuts you off in traffic almost causing a ten-car pile-up and then has the nerve to flip YOU off, what do you do? If you’re gonna avoid going to jail, then you either do nothing or, at most, yell at said jerk and return the bird. Either way, not very satisfying. At derby, when some chick tries to pass you up, knock you down, hold you back, or cut you off, what do you do then? You drop that bitch. And it feels soooo good.
Before I know it, practice is over and I’m suddenly sad. I wish I could stay and feel like this forever. I know the real world is waiting for me right outside those doors, and I don’t want to go back there. I stretch and chat with the girls, pack up all of my gear, and hang around until they start turning all the lights off on us. As we’re all leaving the parking lot and driving away in the dark, I worry that one day I’ll get injured or I’ll lose this great feeling and not be able to get it back. I worry, but then I trust. I trust in derby and the good feeling I know it will always bring. Battered and bruised, high on derby love and endorphins, and smiling ear-to-ear, I drag my ass back home. Rinse and repeat.
Photo Credits: Turbo Tyke, Cajun Eject-Her