Let’s face it: 40 years old, married, with an elementary school kid and a full-time career. Not just a job, a career. What business does such a person have jacking around with a dangerous, highly aggressive, grueling sport like roller derby where the women are almost half my age? I know of at least one person in my life, the one who claimed to carry the “BFF” title, thinks I have no fucking business with it. So, this is kind of a vent session, because the more I think about her desertion, and forfeiture of our relationship (she just ignores me), I have come to realize that it isn’t me: She overtly disagrees with, and is possibly very jealous of, the choice and dedication I’ve made in roller derby as my hobby. Therefore, I thought I would just get it out, and set the record straight for anyone who does – or does not – know me and the struggles I’ve had.
So, here are the top reasons roller derby is “just the thing” a middle-aged working mother needs.
Identity. Ok, call it a midlife crisis or whatever – feel free to use that label if you dare – but a couple years ago I reached a point in my life where I asked my husband, and the universe, “Is this IT? Is there nothing for me to look forward to? Nothing for me to get excited about? I work, I come home, we take care of our daughter, then do it all over again? Who am I, really?” My only descriptors of me as an individual were his wife, her mother, and a marketing person. I spent every day waiting for something great, something better, to happen to me. I was uncomfortable in my own skin because I didn’t feel like I was unique in any way. I sucked at making shit, I can’t draw or play an instrument, I don’t sing, and writing wasn’t something that really revved my engine. I’m pretty good at photography, but again, not something I craved to do all the time. And I hate running. When I heard about roller derby and saw it for the first time, it’s like I woke the fuck up. Whoa! I skated as a kid, so it wasn’t a new skill for me. And I still had my skates. Finally! Something new to try, something I knew I could do, something I lived for as a kid – skating. Now, I’m still all those things, wife, mother, career woman, but now add to that roller girl. Er, woman. And athlete.
Fitness and health. Mentally and physically. I never imagined that anyone, much less me, would refer to me as an athlete. I’ve been in the best shape of my life these past two years and it’s GREAT. I feel so much better about myself, and what I look like, and how I feel, that I actually WANT to do more and I want to fuel my machine with good food. I was on a path of drinking too much, smoking too much, eating like crap, over weight (by my standards – 160 lbs on a 5’9″ frame) and sedentary, in constant pain, and falling into a depressed state that was painfully obvious. Nothing made me happy. I didn’t even look forward to vacations, or Christmas, or anything. Many thought my marriage wouldn’t last another year. Roller derby saved my life, and my marriage.
Self confidence. Roller derby is not just physically taxing. It’s also mentally taxing – and I have had anxiety attacks during practice. But for every anxiety attack and every doubt I have of myself, my resolve gets stronger. It’s made me a better employee, a better mother, a better wife, a better team mate. Too bad that BFF isn’t around to share in my successes. I’m pretty fucking awesome now.
Setting an example of determination, and never giving up. Four. Four times I’ve gone through the “fresh meat” probationary training period for an elite banked track league. I’m within three weeks of the final evaluation I’ll do a fourth time. The fact that I’m toughing it out a fourth time is setting an example for my very impressionable 7-year-old daughter: never give up, keep practicing, and it takes hard work to achieve your dreams and goals. Plus, the admiration and support of my husband is priceless. He’s my biggest fan, and is there setting me straight when the brain boogers try to tear me down. He’s my eternal rock, and my eternal mental coach.
A community of people who won’t give up on me. This – the anthropology of it all – is the crowning jewel. People I barely know care about what I’m doing, what happens to me, and are there to congratulate and celebrate my successes, and pick me back up when I’m down. You know, kind of like a BFF, but I have 30 of them. And they make me smile Every. Single. Day.
So there you go. Those are the most important reasons why, as a middle-aged working mother, I have all the fucking business in the world to think I can do roller derby. In this community, I’m ageless. And I belong.