Seven years ago, my friend Rachael Rayge joined roller derby and I thought she was
absolutely out of her mind. Who would possibly put their bodies through that? Why?!
I went to one of her first games and sat with my jaw open. I was terrified. I was intrigued. I’ve always been plagued with self-doubt, perhaps an abnormal amount of such. I could never do that, I could never be like her. Shelf that idea. I heard derby whisper my name that night but my head said, “You can’t do it”.
Two years ago, another friend of mine FunkePunkeMonke had mentioned to me that she had joined Mass Attack Roller Derby. I was secretly jealous. Where do my friends keep getting this strength from? Everyone was sure, confident, self-aware, and so supportive of their team. You could see their level of commitment and passion just oozing from their skates. I sat and watched her game much like I watched Rachael’s game. That night derby spoke a little louder… but again, my head said, “You’ll never make it.”
In January of this year, after a series of life changes since the last time I saw a derby game. I saw an invitation pop up on my facebook by Captain Tufts, a friend and derby official. Was this a sign?? Derby screamed this time out of nowhere… and my head said “Fine. But if you get hurt, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
My first practice, I remember putting my loaner elbow pads on upside down and thinking, “I am a hot mess. What am I doing here??” I fixed my pads, laced up my rental skates… and got the courage to head out on to the floor. Instant faceplant. It hurt too. After multiple attempts looking like Bambi learning how to first walk (or in this instance, skate) I got back up. I started to roll. I was shaking like a leaf. I almost cried because I thought “ok this is it—this is where I quit. I can’t. I can’t do this.”
Then suddenly impending “Doom”. But, in a good way. Doom is the name of my skater sister who came up behind me out of nowhere and grabbed my hand. She made me
instantly feel like I belonged. Like, this was where I needed to be. “Don’t be nervous. We’ve all been there.” she said. I think, at first it’s hard to imagine when you are looking around at all the vets to think that they used to be like you once. I mean, how is that even possible?? They whiz by you and you just stand there in awe… half because you want to be friends with everyone because they have such great attitudes and half because you want to be like them. You aspire to be like them.
At my first practice, I met an amazingly supportive coach named Banshee and an exceptional group of women, who much like myself, were emerging from their comfort zone. We were all in loaner gear that was hand-me-downs from vets and too big or too small rink rental skates and just looking at each other. We skated our first lap and I knew. Wobbly strangers who kept falling… but we were falling together. I knew just as I watched these women of all walks of life, diversity, and backgrounds that they had heard that derby voice too. Like me. All of them for different reasons. That’s when I felt that this was truly a family. We were all new sisters.
It’s been two months now and I am already far from where I started… and I don’t mean the shaky leaf on skates. I mean seven years ago, sitting in the crowd watching all my other friends accomplish their hardest goals. Being a spectator in life is no longer in the cards for me. Each practice Doom keeps up with me asking me every time, “What’s one good thing you did today at practice?”…Sometimes I answer plow stops or crossovers, or the out of breathe garbled, “I didn’t die” and she laughs.
It took me years to finally do this. To do this for me. To prove to myself that “I can”. I am tough. I am a damn sweaty-boobed warrior on eight wheels…especially with my new sisters behind me.
P.S. If you’re looking for a sign to join derby like I was, this is it!
Blog post by Jessy Chaves