Monday, January 30, 2012

In Knee Pads I Trust

I've been through three roller derby practices now, and so far it's been pretty much exactly what I expected: really difficult in the most awesome way possible.

First things first: I'm not a natural athlete. In fact, you could probably describe me as the most unnatural athlete ever. I'm not very flexible, I'm really not very coordinated, and I've never found a sport that made me care enough to try to improve either of those things. Add in the 50 extra pounds I'd like to lose, and exercise in general - but sports especially - is usually a pretty unattractive option to me. But there's something so badass about roller derby that I got over my disdain for organized sports and signed up.

Now, don't confuse my enthusiasm for actual talent. Let's be clear: in a pool of 30 beginners, I'm mediocre at best. I seem to be okay with going forward in a straight line (most of the time), but tight turns, some stops and turning around present serious challenges. I've seen some slow improvement already, but it's still incredibly frustrating for me to see other people (some of whom have been in the beginner group for months now) doing things so naturally while I stumble over my toe stops (true story).

Someone very wise pointed out that "there's no reason in the world to expect [myself] to be good at roller derby instantaneously." And of course, she's right. But that doesn't change the fact that I want to be good at it instantaneously, or that I find it maddening that I'm not. This has been a recurring theme my entire life: if I try something and find that I'm not good at it right away, I want to quit. I have vivid memories of throwing a tantrum when I couldn't tie my shoes correctly the first time. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 19 because I wasn't a good driver from day one (and even then, it was only because my friends were so tired of driving me around that they took me out on the country roads and taught me to drive).

So far, every roller derby practice has brought a moment when I wanted to quit. Turn around stops make me trip over my feet. My double knee falls look more like seizure-induced collapses than gentle glides to the floor. And when it came time to slalom around cones, I secretly wondered how I might slip away for a "water break" and avoid it all together. On more than a couple occasions I yelled "fuck!" out loud, and even teared up in frustration a few times. It was maddening. But every time I took a breath, composed myself, and did the drill again.

It was an uncomfortable feeling, forcing myself to do something I knew I wasn't going to succeed at, but it got a little less uncomfortable every time. And eventually, I did improve on some things (though those turn around stops still elude me), and I did become a little more patient with myself. I still don't like failing at things - and really, who does? - but I'm trying to see it as a means to an end. The fun parts - the free skate time, the whips, even the pushing - outweigh all the frustration.

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