I never thought things would end this way.
On my third anniversary of skating with my team, I am sitting at a steering committee meeting. I’m agitated. I’m hurt. I’m upset. I’m pissed. I always imagined that I’d leave the team because I got a job somewhere else. I would skate a final bout, say my goodbyes, and remember the team as fondly as Kevin Arnold remembered his childhood. But this was not meant to be. Not at all.
I’ve always been an emotional person, but the past couple of weeks, when I made the decision to leave this team, I felt logical. Reasonable. Clearheaded. After all, I recently discovered that I had a slipped disc in my back. I can remember starting this season with intense pain, and it never went away. I kept on pushing, ignoring the symptoms and skating my little heart out. I treated the sciatica with Icy Hot, Lidoderm patches, and muscle relaxers after practice. But when my entire left side when numb after a drill, I knew I needed to see a doctor.
When the diagnosis came back, I wasn’t surprised. I planned on skating one final bout and sticking around to help the team with whatever I could.
And then I just felt sick.
To rewind, I haven’t been happy throughout the entire season. I’m not writing this to blame anyone, call anyone out, or make the team look bad. I’m just one skater who wasn’t pleased with the direction my team was headed. Most practices ended with me sitting in the car crying. Walking into practices, I felt like I had a lead block in my stomach. Bouts were still fun, but I didn’t feel like myself anymore. 9lb Hammer was some kind of ghost skating around the track, just hoping to disappear at any moment. I felt like I didn’t belong.
So I aired my grievances and said goodbye.
I debated attending what was to be my final steering committee meeting. But in the end, I felt like I need some kind of closure, so I went. Of course, I was miserable the entire time. I felt as if all of my faults as a committee chair were being pinned on the table and examined like a little bug. I held back tears at the meeting, but once I made it to the parking lot, I lost it.
I hadn’t cried for weeks. I told my logical, reasonable, clearheaded self to avoid sentimentality. I tried not to think about how my last meeting was pretty much three years (to the date!) of my very first practice. I tried not to think about how my first bout had been against Red Stick, and my last bout had been against Red Stick. I tried not to think about the amazing people I’d met and loved like a family for the past three years.
Somehow I ended up in the parking lot of Panera, bawling and knowing that for me, for now, it was over. Thankfully, my fiancé, one of my closest friends, and a newer transfer to our team were there to console me.
My friend, a girl I’ve known since my first week in Auburn, reminded me of the good things that had happened in the past, and that I still had friends on the team who cared about me. My fiancé was there to remind me of the good direction my life is presently headed. (About to graduate! About to get married! What?) And the transfer to our team, a girl who has taught me a lot about skating and perseverance in the short time I’ve known her, was there to remind me that this wasn’t the end.
She reminded me that when I find a job, move, and (literally) get my back straightened out, I will find a new team. I will skate again. Yes, it hurts now, but I will heal and trudge forward. I can’t sit around and cry for a team that had given me the best three years of my life; I have to pack up my stinky skate bag and move on.
Burn City was my beginning, but it won’t be my end.
I don’t know where I’m headed. Honestly, it depends on where I can find an English teaching position at a community or technical college, and where there is a thriving derby team: that is my dream.
I do know that although things didn’t end well, Burn City gave me something that I don’t want to give back. I learned to win. I learned to lose. I learned that I just want to fucking skate, man! and never be in any sort of steering committee ever again. I learned enough to write two books. I learned that yes, I am athletic, and I am really awesome at pushups. I learned enough to know that no matter what, I will always love roller derby and the people who brought it to life for me.
I never thought things would end this way. Then again, I never thought that someone like me—a five-foot tall diabetic with huge boobs— would ever lace up a pair of skates and play a position called power blocker. I never imagined that I would become friends with girls all over the south because of this derby thing. I never imagined that I would find the love of my life because he announced for our team, and then became the bench coach.
I can’t wait to lace up again one day. I can’t wait for 9lb Hammer to leave the nasty ghost behind and become a skater again. I can’t wait to see what jersey I’ll wear one day.
I can’t wait to learn what derby will teach me next.
Driving around Baton Rouge before a bout.