I was asked, “What does Roller Derby mean to you?”…….
I really had to think about it though. Immediately I wanted to say something powerful, insightful and positive. Something inside me said it wasn’t really being asked as the superficial question it appeared to be, and to just THINK about it for a minute. I mean, I can talk derby for days….but what did it actually MEAN to me? I had never really asked myself that question, and it kind of sent me on an inner reflection I wasn’t altogether prepared for.
The question was proposed to me during a time of inner turmoil while contemplating retiring from a 9 season carrier as an Arizona Renegade. I had been toying with the idea of walking away from derby, and here someone was asking me what that would actually mean to me. Well, that wasn’t really the question, but it is what it amounted to when I sat down and thought about it. I have to admit, there were a few tears.
I wasn’t really ready for that. I wasn’t really ready for ANY of that…retirement??….facing what I would be leaving and giving up?? How or why could I even think about leaving something that had been such a huge part of my life? Was I unhappy with my current situation, frustrated with the day to day of helping run a league, was my body incapable of keeping up with the demands of being a Renegade?
Up to this pivotal moment, I hadn’t really thought about it. Honestly, I hadn’t. I just knew I was tired. Derby had fried me and I didn’t have much left to give to the other, sadly pseudo neglected, parts of my life. Instead of being the thing that recharged me and provided me with passion, it became a chore and a task. Somewhere along the way, when I wasn’t looking, Renegade had become a job. A volunteer job that started to feel like the payoff didn’t outweigh the emotional, physical, or financial investment. How did I allow this to happen??!! How did I reach this crossroad? More importantly, could it be changed? Did I even want to change it, or was it time to walk away? Wow, “What does roller derby mean to you?” it seemed like such a standard innocent question. It was anything but that.
I thought about my journey from the beginning all the way up the moment my friend asked me, what is now referred to as “The dreaded question”. This inevitably brought on a flood of emotions that had me feeling like a bipolar mess. Laughing at a fantastic memory one second and then crying the next over the constant challenges my league has endured. I’ve seen a lot of personalities come and go over the years, and each one was special and brought something unique to the league. I have unquestionably had some of the most fun of my life playing this game. Without it I am unsure who or where I would be in my life. I wasn’t lost to drugs and derby didn’t “save my soul” but I was leading a painful life that included a prison most people call a couch. Renegade has kept me focused and occupied and has taught me I am stronger in so many ways than I ever would have known; as a friend, a teammate, an athlete, a promoter, a business woman, a medic, a graphic artist, a baker, a mediator, a banker, a motivator, a janitor, a bar tender, a pillow fighter, and engineer, a seamstress, a DJ, an announcer or anything else that presented itself as necessary to get a specific job done. (If anything, derby teaches diversity….lol) Roller derby has allowed an environment where I have cultivated friendships that will last a lifetime. It has given me reason to travel and experience things I never would have, had I not participated. Renegade Roller Derby has given me the opportunity to be a part of something larger, something that represents big and meaningful ideals to a great number of people.
It’s not all shits and giggles when I boil it down to the bare bones though. I was planning on quitting, so it must not be too great, right? Well I have to say, it is a lot of hard work and quite a bit of heartbreak. It will never cease to be a challenge or require less from me, it can only ever demand more. It will never stop evolving or stop changing the curve balls it can serve to me personally, or to my league. There will always be things involved in helping run a derby league, and actively skating as a member, that require more of me. Whether it means stepping up our promotions or stepping up my blocking- I will constantly be required to stretch myself to my limits to keep up. Personalities will always clash with other type “A’” personalities causing inevitable drama. The temperature will without a doubt rise causing me to want to die and general practice attendance to dwindle, taking its toll on the league as a whole due to excessive unavoidable heat. Teams and venues will sometimes have issues and cancel unexpectedly. Someone will always forget to do what they said they would do and it will always cost the league dearly. It will never be easy and show up or shut up and skate is a myth!! Roller Derby is in a constant state of flux and a giant pain in the ass. Just thinking about it now makes me want to bury my head under a pillow and sleep. Blah!
I can choose to let these challenges drain me, or reset me with new passions and new drive though, right? This is something I had obviously lost sight of (had I ever had sight of it?). If I thought for a moment I could walk away or retire, I clearly hadn’t thought it through. I was obviously buying into that horrible crap in the paragraph above this one. Crap anyone who sticks around and plays derby on a team for more than three months will be a part of or witness, as that is the nature of this game and such is life, but it in no way defines derby. If you let the few negative scavengers that hover around the life blood actually instill terror and make you believe you are weak- you will be.
Stinking thinking can and will kill your drive, your team, and potentially your league. I almost let general negativity kill my love for this and my belief that the game and my league, as a greater whole, is worth the sacrifice. It is though. They payoff is greater. The love still is there. The desire to be better is there. The drive was restored. The passion reignited. I won’t stand by idle while there is work to be done. Retire at a time like this? Absolutely not.
I was asked, “What does roller derby mean to you?”…….it means never giving up, never quitting. Rising above the adversity and using it to fuel you. It means family and being a part of something bigger than yourself. Oh OK there’s that powerful, insightful, positive & absolutely cheesy response I was hoping to avoid. What can I say, I love everything about this shit!! The good, the bad, and the unavoidably ugly.
AZ RENEGADE POR VIDA!!
KC KarrNage #86U
Renegade Rollergirls AZ since 2005
AKA: Casey Smith
Visit my fundraising roller derby show at Eye Lounge at 5th Street and Roosevelt
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