If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be part of a roller derby league in East Tennessee, I would have laughed in their face. Before June of 2015, the last time I’d worn a pair of roller skates was undoubtedly sometime in the mid-90s at a SkateZone birthday party. For most of my life I was unaware of any skating that didn’t involve lacing up some rentals with a belly full of birthday cake and concession stand nachos. Although it’s not exactly clear to me when the idea first came to mind, I know my curiosity about roller derby was already brewing and dramatically intensified when the movie Whip It hit theaters. This is an option? It’s possible to be an adult athlete playing a team-sport on wheels? Incredible! . . . However, as it often does for me, other parts of life got in the way and my curiosity and passionate interest slowly waned and became a distant thought. More than a few years passed and I hadn’t yet stepped out of my comfort zone to give it a try. Fast forward to June 2015 after graduating college and moving from Columbus, Ohio to Knoxville, Tennessee - I decided it was time to make a change. It was an opportunity for a new start and the perfect time to begin a new challenge.
I couldn’t believe the warmth extended to me, especially at my first few practices. Each stride was mostly a 50:50 chance as to whether I’d muster enough balance to remain standing. What lunatic thought strapping wheels to your feet was a good idea? Sure! Let’s sacrifice the friction that’s been responsible for keeping me vertical for the past two decades (or more) of my life. Why did I think it made sense to invest in something that will likely result in the disarticulation of my tailbone (and the absolute destruction of my pride)?! Because - it’s the difficult things that are the most worth doing. I’m reminded of how the challenges we face change so dramatically as we grow up. It’s the most personal challenges that we can either choose to take on, difficult as the journey may be, or let go in an effort to make the overall load we bear less intense. Roller derby was, for me, one of those decisions; coast and stick with what you’re good at OR steady your conviction, kiss the asphalt a few hundred times, and learn how to own those skates. An instrumental part of my journey over the past year has been the incredible group of women I’m surrounded with at least twice a week. Even while I could barely stand and it took my full concentration to make each very deliberate stride, no one ever lost patience with me. I can’t thank them enough for helping me stick to it.
In the next few months it will be one year from the time I ordered my gear. One important decision all skaters are faced with upon joining a team is the task of choosing a derby name. For months I had lists on scraps of paper in my pockets, on dry erase boards in my house, and stored in my phone. Thanks to the creativity (and expanse) of the derby community, pretty much every name I constructed (each of which I assumed was a moment of brilliant glory) had been taken. However, I finally settled on the name Marie Fury, an homage to physicist, chemist, and the first female nobel prize-winner, Marie Curie. In no way could I even joke about putting myself in the company of this legend, but I do plan to harness her spirit as motivation to keep sticking it to all my discouragers (especially when that opposing force is my own self-critical mind).
It’s hard to believe the change in attitude and emotion I feel lacing up my skates now verses 9 months ago. What initially began as a mountainous trek through obstacle after obstacle, as if I was again learning to walk for the first time, has now become an intentional course where, although the path is winding, it’s laid out in front of me and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.