Comfort Zone

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I started playing soccer when I was 5 years old and while I have never been the fastest or strongest on any team, I have some natural skill and I try hard. I dropped soccer after high school and there begins my long career of living a glamourous sedentary lifestyle. While I dabbled in rec soccer and running groups, no sport captured me in a way that made me want to stick with it. That is, until I met and fell in love with roller derby.

A couple of years ago I met a colleague in Ontario who was a roller-girl-by-night in Kitchener. Watching her as a first-time derby spectator I had a silly grin on my face the whole bout. I went up to her afterwards like a kid meeting her idol at a rock concert. She looked fantastic: So confident and strong. I wanted to be her. I was excited for days afterwards.

The nearby Brantford derby league held a night where people who were interested could come out and watch a practice. I went, excitedly watched, collected the forms, but didn’t make the leap. As soon as we decided to move to New Brunswick and my husband discovered there was a roller derby league in Saint John I vowed to contact them and at least volunteer – no excuses.

I contacted the Fog City Rollers soon after we arrived. I asked about volunteering and (maybe?!) training as Fresh Meat: Was I too old? They responded with a super-friendly/welcoming email explaining that I was not too old at all – and that many of the women had never been on roller skates before they started training.

I was introduced to a local derby girl and she travelled with my hubby, boyo & I to the first FCR bout we attended. She took me into the locker room before the bout to introduce me to the Scarlet Swarm. The girls were giddy with excitement, laughing, dancing, and singing as they geared up. It was electric and I wanted to jump in and be a part of it.

I volunteered at the derby bout on the track level, recording penalties. It was a very exciting vantage point to watch the extremely close match-up. I decided there and then that I wanted to be a part of this in a very real way. I felt compelled to try.

I borrowed skates and the first time I ever put them on was in my driveway. I was so freaked out with those wheels strapped on that I yelled at my husband to leave me alone so I could flail in private. My feet burned and I felt like a big clumsy ox. I had to take the skates off after 10 minutes but each time I put them on I did a little bit better. On day three my husband said: “Are you as impressed with yourself as I am?” That felt great. I was doing a lot better than I thought I would and I could not wait for the first Fresh Meat practice.

With every Fresh Meat practice I felt stronger and stronger and the time between practices felt longer and longer as I craved the physicality and the strength I felt on skates. I was building confidence in myself (on and off skates) by skating with other women from all walks of life in a variety of body shapes and ages. Our Coaches (and the FCR in general) are a super-supportive bunch, embracing us “Freshies”, giving a healthy mix of praise and critique. I cannot thank them enough for the encouragement they have given me.

A lot of people who know me may think I don’t get scared, that I just go out and try new things. However, I was nervous about starting roller derby at 35 years old, as an unfit person with a BMI so high I shudder at the thought of actually crunching the numbers. It is not easy to start something new that scares you, but you have to listen to that   part of you that screams louder than the self-doubt and people who will criticize.

I have reached well beyond my comfort zone and found a really great, new comfort zone. I am meeting women who amaze me with their ease, grace and confidence on skates. Women with a contagious zest for life who seem to throw their heads back and laugh at those who raise an eyebrow.

In the derby world there is a basic goal to do 25 laps of the track in 5 minutes. The second time I attempted this I got overzealous and took my first spectacular fall. I flew into the air, limbs flailing, and landed with my wheels high under my hind quarters (how the skate got up that high, I don’t know!). This resulted in the most brilliant, purple-black bruise. I wore that bruise like a badge of honour – like my own self-inflicted Fresh Meat hazing.

My husband took me to buy my very own skates from Georgia W. Tush at Neon Skates in Montreal over the holidays and that experience was huge for me. Not only did I actually speak to Tush in person (Team Canada Tush with broken collar bone and all!), but I got to try on skates and make a commitment to myself and this sport. Buying my own skates was exhilarating! I felt like Wayne Campbell when he finally buys the Fender Strat!

As a 35-year old mother I know I have more to give in this life (and body) than I have been giving. And I know there is more to get from this life (and body) than I have been getting.

It is never too late to find a new, way more exciting comfort zone – and if that involves fishnets, knee-high socks (smelly derby gear) and retro-accesorizing – Even better! I’m IN!