I had a nice chat with Bull this week. We talked about some of the things that intimidate new skaters. One thing in particular that she touched on had been on my mind for a while so, after hearing Bull’s perspective, I wanted to air it out with you all.
I haven’t spent much time with Bull in the past. She has always been friendly and supportive, but I am kind of an introvert haven’t gotten to know many of my teammates. There have been many times I have felt like I just didn’t fit in. So, imagine my surprise when she shared with me that she has struggled with the whole “fitting in” thing too.
We talked about how we can really shoot ourselves in the foot because of how we perceive how well (or not) we “fit” with a group of people we are just getting to know. Especially when a bunch of those people are good at something we want to do but really suck at. Like skating.
I’m being transparent here. I still feel like I don’t fit most of the time! But the truth is, it is really my perception and not the reality. The people I am getting to know in AFA have the most supportive attitudes of any group of women I have ever met. And this is what keeps me coming back. Not only do I want to be the recipient of that attitude, but I want to be the kind of person that shows others “Hey! You do belong here.”
Before derby, my social pool was kiddie sized. I lived for most of my adult life with no close friendships. So, trading my kiddie pool for an Olympic sized derby pool meant making a decision to let faith, rather than fear, dictate how I interacted with people.
For example, before derby, I had never known a transgender person. But because of derby, I had the opportunity to meet a woman who started her life, biologically male. I will tell you, this gave me some anxiety. Not because of her, but because I felt my inadequacy to mentally roll with ease over the hurdle of what I didn’t know, to what my heart wanted, which was to make her feel welcome and at home with us. I was afraid because I knew it was very likely that I would unintentionally say or do something that would offend her. Like slipping and using the wrong pronoun or saying something that betrayed my ignorance about what it is like to live as a transgender woman.
But, by pushing through the anxiety, and into the desire to show friendship, I gained something wonderful. I gained a friend that I came to know as sensitive, funny, vulnerable, and incredibly strong. She and I would chat here and there, and as I got to know her, she described some things from her point of view that helped me understand her better, and to appreciate her class and her sense of humor. She helped me feel like I fit in with her, despite my anxiety about my own shortcomings.
So, you can see how inclusiveness works. You make an effort to include, and then wind up feeling included yourself. You figure out that whether or not you “fit in” there’s a place for you at the track and welcome and friendship too.
Now, we have a bunch of brand new skaters, and I’ve seen enough new skaters to recognize a few things. EVERYONE feels like they don’t “fit” at one point or another. Everyone has anxiety about something or about someone who is different from themselves. At some point, I believe everyone has a moment, or six, when they think it would be best just to quietly slip out the back door. But that would be a loss in so many ways.
If that is you, if you feel like you don’t fit in, if you feel like bolting, please don’t. Not only will you miss out on getting to know some incredible people, but we’ll miss out on getting to know you. Give yourself a chance to find your place. Look for someone who looks like you feel and say hello. Just stick around for a while and see what happens.
Derby Love, Angels