By Wild Violet
When I joined the Androscoggin Fallen Angels back in spring of 2016 I had no skating experience or athletic prowess to speak of. Sure, I do yoga once in a while and I am pretty flexible. But most of my time was spent sitting on my rump, making art or reading books. I never considered myself an “athlete”. I wanted to change that.
I saw a recruitment post on Facebook about the local roller derby league and attended an info session. While I sat there, observing their practice with info packet in hand, listening as the Angels told us about the league and what practices were like, I found myself wanting to jump right down off the balcony, strap on some skates, and join them. I filled out the paperwork, got my gear and insurance, and felt ready to roll.
A couple of weeks later I showed up for my very first practice, scared out of my mind and thinking to myself that I was insane for showing up and thinking I could do this. Looking around, I could see that I wasn’t the only brand new, “bambi-on-ice” skater. Several others were struggling to stay on their feet as well and I found that comforting. But as practice went on, it became clear that the years of roller skating I did as a kid were not going to translate into picking this derby skating stuff up quickly. This was friggin’ hard!
Practice after practice I showed up anyway. When we did the off-skates workouts, I huffed and puffed my way through. (Wait, what? Jogging!? Burpees!? Ugh, OK.) When it was time to lace up my skates and get out on the track for drills, I wobbled through every one. Yes, I did glance at the clock to see just how much longer I had to endure. I looked at that clock a LOT.
But what I didn’t do, the thing I avoided like the plague, was sit on the bench.
You see, on day one, as I drove myself to that first practice, I made a deal with myself. I agreed that unless I got injured, I was not going to sit my ass on the bench and watch. I wasn’t going to be a watcher anymore, I was going to be a doer. I knew I wasn’t going to be the best skater, I wasn’t going to be the strongest, the fastest, or the most agile. I knew from the get go that roller derby was going to take a lot of falling and failing on my part before I got good at it. But I also knew that I had to make it through that period of falling and failing, and I couldn’t do that while sitting down.
My personal rule was: You have to try everything and you can’t sit out.
And so, week after week, I went, I skated, and I improved. I eventually stopped huffing and puffing so much. I eventually stopped guffawing at the idea that I could be an athlete. I eventually stopped glancing at the clock every fifteen minutes.
And one magical day, the trainers called out that practice was over, and I found myself not only in disbelief that those two hours had flown by so fast, but also wishing that it wasn’t over and I didn’t have to take my skates off and go home. I was having so much fun that the desire to stop never popped up and I never had to remind myself of my personal rule.
No, Derby Perseverance.
We all have different limitations and strengths. When we start something new, the person next to us might excel more quickly at it, and it may come to them more easily. In this case, it is tempting to tell oneself that we just aren’t cut out to do that thing, or that we aren’t ready. And that bench looks damn inviting. But the bench can become a habit.
It isn’t a bad place. I’ve had to sit there more than a few times when I’ve been healing a sprained knee or a pulled muscle. At those times the bench is a place to observe and do the mental work, learning by watching. The important thing is not to allow the bench to invite you to avoid pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enough to grow.
Julie Andrews said: “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”
In order to get to that 20th time, you have to push yourself through the first 19. And that means avoiding that bench.