Once upon a time, I played roller derby. Ok, so, that time was from November 2007 to July 2010, under the alter ego Hazel Smut Crunch, number 350. (Actually, I played pretty much all the time, if you want to get precise. I ate, drank, breathed and slept derby.*)
Roller derby was a wonderful and terrible experience for me.
The wonderful: physically, I was in the best shape of my life. I stepped up to take on all kinds of administrative stuff, which proved to me that I could handle a job that was more challenging and fulfilling (and better paying) than the one I had at the time. Ultimately, my derby experience helped me get a new, better job – which is a totally different story for another day.
The terrible: part of me was desperately concerned with fitting in. And I had no sense of how to balance derby with all the other things that I enjoyed doing, like reading and cooking and knitting and hanging out with people who didn’t play derby. I made a bunch of choices that were not really in character for Jenn Waltner, but were totally in character for Hazel Smut Crunch, who in retrospect, I can see was a bitch.
Fast forward four and a half years. I have changed jobs several times, gained weight, gotten older, added a tattoo, developed a much stronger relationship with my husband, and gotten a much clearer sense of my own identity in the healthiest way possible. I’ve reached a point where I can make the choices that are right for me while respecting and considering other people, but not needing their approval. I am comfortable and confident in my own skin in ways that I wasn’t before. And it’s liberating as hell.
A while ago, I thought about going back to derby. Sent some emails/feelers out there. Tim was cool with it. And then I woke up in the middle of the night bawling my face off because I was such a bitch to him last time. (Really: the ENTIRE time I played derby, I was awful to him and can’t believe he wanted to stay married to me, but I’m really fucking grateful that he did.) He hugged me and told me it was ok, do whatever felt right for me.
Clearly, I wasn’t ready to skate again.
Now, somehow, I am. Rec league, because hell, I haven’t taken a hit since July 2010 and have no idea if I can do 27 laps in 5 minutes. Plus I travel for work a fair amount and can’t commit to practicing all the freaking time. And I want balance. I’m not willing to sacrifice those other things that are important to me this time around.
There are a bunch of things that will be different this time around:
- A new name. One that more closely reflects who I am and what I do outside of derby. Something that’s actually been a nickname since before I started skating… incorporates my real name, language geekiness, and my career, in a subtle way. New number, too – that keeps part of my old number, but thematically ties in with the new name and incorporates a music reference, because that’s also important to me. (Not posting it here yet because I have no freaking clue how the name requirements/conventions have changed in my absence and I want to wait until I know I’m good to share it.)
- BALANCE. I will not let the derby monster consume me. I will participate in other activities I enjoy. I will not subject my friends and family who aren’t interested in derby to incessant derby talk / blog posts / facebook updates. I will not sacrifice my identity and relationships to roller derby. Enough said.
- New skates, because NEW SKATES. Custom. Blue suede, in honor of my love for Carl Perkins and all things with awesome textures. From Bruised Boutique, because Dee Stortion and Bad Ass Mama and I all started together and they rock.
- I have gotten better at a bunch of stuff, like turning toe stops and jumping. And saying no to overloading myself. I am just going to skate. Nothing else.
There are also things that will not be different:
- I will push myself to do the hard things, the scary things, the things that seem just out of reach, until I nail that shit.
- I am no less obsessed with wheels and sparkly things.
- I will still wear lipstick to practice, because I wear lipstick every time I leave the house. It’s my personal version of war paint.
- I will still seek out the new skaters who are struggling and think they can’t do this and let them know that I have faith in them. Because when I started, I had to skate into walls to stop. I fell and smashed the back of my head at one of NHRD’s first practices when I was standing still and not even trying to do anything on skates (which is why the rules now require everyone to wear helmets at practice AT ALL TIMES… true story). I failed the assessment to be eligible for scrimmaging the first time I tried. When I finally made a team, I sat on the bench most of my first season because I was the weakest skater and the most likely to get penalties. And I worked my ass off and got better.
I’m ready. Let the derby rebirth begin.
* No lie: I’d practice at LEAST 3 nights a week for 3 hours a pop, not including travel time and post-practice shower. I was also a team captain, so I was coming up with drills and line-ups with my amazing co-captain for our team practices which took up another few hours every week; I was on the board of directors, chair of the bout production committee, webmaster, and was trying to abandon being treasurer but kept winding up having to go to the freaking bank because I was on the account and no one else wanted to deal with it. Plus I was doing travel team, so at least one weekend a month, I was away. Oh, and I blogged about derby, too, posting at least twice a week. I think Tim and I calculated that I was spending an AVERAGE of 30 hours a week doing derby stuff. And working full-time. Never again.