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Published on November 16th, 2011 | by Hot Quad


The Pursuit of Derbyness: Obsession

“Congratulations, you’re a Jet Cadet.” These were not the exact words that were uttered last Saturday upon completion of the final skill assessment before being accepted to Jet City’s training team. I actually don’t remember exactly what happened. One minute we were doing a worm drill and the next we were filling out paperwork. After 12 weeks of going to basic skating class held on the outside of the track, we were moving into the derby ring. I found two voices competing for attention in my mind. Voice 1: I knew that I would move up. If something hadn’t been up to par, someone would have let me know. I feel confident and I skate all the time. Voice 2: OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMYGOD.

The next draft for teams is in three months. This fact has brought up what has become a constant redefinition of how much derby time seems reasonable. When I started skating 5 months ago I was very proud of myself if I managed to go to adult skate night twice in one week. 3 months ago it seemed like a lot to go to a practice or rink 3 or 4 times a week. Shortly thereafter it seemed worthwhile to add some off-skates training. Six weeks ago I started doing doubles on the weekends and as of today I’ve found myself skating 8 sessions in the past 7 days with 45 miles logged on the bike in addition to my two cross-training days. Do I want to make a team in February? Oh. Hell. Yes. But the time spent driving from one rink to the next lends itself all too well to questioning the path I’ve set for myself. I’ve developed a niggling suspicion that perhaps all this work isn’t really about roller derby at all.

It’s about me.

It’s about digging out my full length mirror because I can once again stand to see what it reflects. My favorite meal is mac and cheese, preferably with bacon, and beer. My regular brain looks at this meal and engages in a long existential discussion about whether the benefits of living a hedonistic lifestyle outweigh the cost in terms of health and impact on my wallet. This inevitably leads to the ongoing struggle to define the kind of person I am and life I wish to lead, and whether I want to be thinner because it’s more socially acceptable or because it’s a desire I have all of my own. Is this totally neurotic? You bet. That’s why I’m increasingly grateful for my derby brain. It only asks one question: Will this meal make me faster? It won’t, and DAMN I look better without that extra twenty pounds.

It’s about being forced to accept that yes, just one pack of cigarettes a week does make me a smoker. That hacking in the morning isn’t allergies. I’m not huffing and puffing my way around the track because I’m out of shape. The past 10 weeks have proven both that I can quit and that nicotine addiction is far more powerful than I would ever have suspected when I started three years ago. Sometimes I just stand the requisite 20 feet away from the door of whatever bar I happen to be frequenting, inhale the second hand smoke and drool a little. Yes, it’s disgusting, but I’ve avoided bumming that one cigarette and I can do it because I can imagine how bad it will feel the next time I strap on my skates.

It’s about the freedom that contentment brings. The other day after practice I was having a cupcake with my skate buddy Riley and we started to laugh – god knows why – and then I laughed, and laughed just because I was so tired and it felt so good. She turned to me then and said, “I like happy Megan.” She says this because she remembers last winter and spring when depression rendered me more or less unable to leave my bedroom for any reason other than work. She was one of the three people I was willing to see and then I wasn’t much of a party. I like happy Megan, too. She doesn’t have to struggle to get out of bed in the morning. She remembers why it can be fun and not desperate to drink tequila and go dancing. She smiles sometimes for no reason at all and can occasionally be heard singing under her breath while grocery shopping.

The question of whether it’s reasonable to commit twenty hours a week or more to skating or working out has become irrelevant. The real question is whether I’m getting out what I put in. Today, my answer is absolutely. Tomorrow, who knows? I always reserve the right to change my mind. But for the moment I’m riding what I lovingly refer to as the “Awesome Train,” and as long as it’s still moving, so am I.

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