I will remember 2016 for the rest of my life.
I started Roller Derby to save my life. I was Suicidal and depressed, and this sport gave me something I could absorb myself in. I could get lost in its infinite intricacies, hide in its diversity and heal in its embrace. It has been a teacher as much as a saviour and the best medicine to mend a gaping wound, more than any drug ever could.
It all started with one moment. Sitting in a small room, hidden away watching the first Men's Roller Derby World Cup in secret, I had a thought. This thought became a desire, then a dream and finally a vow.
"No matter what, I WILL be at the next one!"
My vow was fulfulled, as part of a team that I could not fault. It felt like, what only dictionaries and ideals could define as a team. We achieved exactly what we said we would do.
This year's season has been something I could only dream of. I doubt I could have even imagined the opportunities this year has offered me. I'm still not sure if I am awake. Someone body-check me into the reality hotel.
It started in the mountains in Calgary. As a result of how we did, I came home high as a kite but with very few plans for the future. I had ideas, but nothing decided or set in stone. All I knew is that I wanted to get better and play more derby. I felt like I was holding a compass in the mist. I knew where I wanted to go, but no idea how to get there.
Invitation 1: skate in St. Louis. (vs GK)
Invitation 2: skate in Dallas. (MRDA Champs)
Invitation 3: skate in Adelaide. (AMRD Nationals)
With each trip the euphoria and flattery builds. My chest was like an ever-expanding happy balloon. Its brightness and amazement growing like a wildfire. In shock and disbelief, I say yes with no hindrance or hesitation. I kept expecting to wake up. "This has to be a joke!" But, like Forest Gump, I thought, "Well I've come this far, might as well keep on going!"
My body trains harder and harder, brain plans further and further, I feel I'm on the brink of losing control. Yet still I'm going higher, to the point I feel so euphoric and ever so surreal. It's like I'm sitting next to Red Bull guy on his magnificent shining balloon staring down at the Earth like a satellite.
I'm on top of the world. What a rush. What a ride.
Then you look around..... and you're all by yourself.
Far away from home and surrounded by people, it's amazing how isolated you can feel. Alone to the bone.
"Oh, but you're a guest. The lucky one." ...The outsider. "You're part of the team now...but just for a few days!" There's an emptiness and feeling if being completely lost. Lonely but surrounded by people.
Sad to say, I have received some presumptuous scrutiny and told I didn't deserve to be there. All taken in with a smile and a held tongue. Regardless of what I had done or achieved, all the time being mindful that this wasn't where I came from. You become very aware of yourself and at times feel like an intruder or unwelcome guest in someone else's house.
All of that aside, I am EXTREMELY grateful and thankful for every opportunity I have been given this year. I've enjoyed every positive to its utmost. I have learned some very many valuable lessons from the few negatives, both of which I will never forget and am equally grateful for. Looking back I would not change anything at all and would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Photo: Jennifer M. Ramos
So many things have been reinforced in me. Every positive is a growing experience and every negative is a learning experience.
I Succeed or I Learn. I will never lose.
THE biggest thing I have learned, more than anything, is: Real TEAMS always prosper.
They don't even have to come first. They are always the happiest and have true team spirit. When your team are your friends 1st and your team-mates 2nd. When you see them more off track, and out of practice more than you do on. When you start to see it as a family rather than team. (GateKeepers and St. Louis. You taught me this. And I will never forget, or stop being thankful for it).
I've felt at light-speed these past few months and I went alone. This truly engraved the "Go fast, go alone. Go far go together" idea, more than anything ever could. I cannot express enough how important team spirit is in this and how it will always fulfil you more than any score, or win.
I've learned also to always say "yes".
And "Yes" to the best of my ability when opportunities arise. You will only truly regret what you didn't do, rather than the things you did. The only regret you must accept is that you didn't start sooner, but be grateful you DID start.
To be truly great at something, you must explore all its ways and options. Not just the good, the easy or the successful ones.
The bad ones must never be forgotten. They are too valuable. Like a disease we must keep them, study the details and use them to vaccinate us from negativity. To reflect in the bad experiences is to teach us how to make the good ones greater. For we cannot see how good things can be without seeing things from the bottom.
To anyone that already truly knows this idea and is already filled with team spirit, I say: "Go be a satellite player". You will learn so much, so fast and be tested more than you thought you ever could. It's uncomfortable and it's far beyond your comfort zone. Like balancing on a tight rope. Every second, you're thinking about what every tiny twitch might change.
You're a hired gun and the pressure to deliver seems overwhelming. They call you an ambassador, which is privilege and pressure in equal crushing measure. But it will always be worth it....every single second.
Photo: Laura MacDonald
I have grown from this.
I've become stronger from this.
I have gained so much practice and from that I have not become perfect. Instead I feel permanent. I have permanently sealed my decision to commit to this sport, and it has cured me of my fears and doubts.
I have learned so much and hope to share what I have learned. Most of all this year has made me Thankful.
Thank you Roller Derby. You saved my life.