Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Hell on Wheels

So I know it’s been inexcusably long since I’ve written, and there are some half-assed excuses that I could give here, but I’ll let my story speak for itself.

The last few months have been rough.  Really rough.  The kind of rough you know you’ll look back on someday and think, well, that was shitty, but at least I survived.  I’m still waiting to survive.  Without going into too much detail, I’ll say this: it’s getting better.  And there are two key things that happened to make it that way.  Number one, I’m teaching myself that work can’t be your whole life because when something goes wrong with work and it’s all you have then your world gets devastated, with no hope but a slow crawl of a recovery.  Number two, Roller Derby.
Those of you who are facebook friends with me might know that I’m a smidge obsessed with this all-contact sport, and it’s true.  I’m completely obsessed.  It’s like oxygen.  Getting on a track with 20 other women and having them beat the snot out of me is the best part of my week.  Whenever I tell people that this is my new pastime I get one of two responses (usually drawn directly down gender lines, unless I am telling a relative, then it’s all option one), the majority of women look at me like I’m absolutely insane and ask why on earth I would want to do something like that and don’t I worry about getting hurt.  Men usually have a reaction somewhat akin to cartoons when Jessica Rabbit walks by, eyes pop out of head, tongues hang out of mouths, and they want to come watch.
Any derby girl knows, the most annoying, yet most asked question is ‘do you worry about getting hurt?’  The answer is: of course.  That’s definitely a concern, but most of my time on the track is spent learning how not to hurt myself or others.  Sure, I could get knocked into the rail and crack a rib, or go face first into someone’s skate and break my nose.  I could break my tailbone or collarbone, tear my ACL, and I already can’t rest too much weight on my left wrist.  But the truth of it is, these are all risks I’m willing to take.  I wear my bruises with pride, I relish the swollen pinky I’m currently sporting and I did learn the hard way not to wear glasses to practice last week.
So why I am willing to take these seemingly insane risks?  Because I haven’t felt this way about anything since I was 14 and found punk rock.  It’s been 12 years since I felt this much at home in my body, in my mind, in everything.  When I discovered the punk scene I felt like I had come home.  Then, about 4 years later, it all changed.  Police were breaking up our punk shows and the bands we admired were playing sold out arenas instead of the little clubs we were used to seeing them in.
On the other hand, I have always been athletic and played sports throughout my childhood.  What I really realized around the time I found punk, was that I couldn’t fucking stand the people who played sports.  Those girls were mean.  I was always the tallest girl on the basketball court, soccer field, or swim team (and when I say tallest, I mean by like 4 or 5 inches).  I was always the biggest girl on every team I played for, and no one got that the fat girl could be athletic.  That I may not be able to run as long as they could, but come game time I could match every single skill and was harder to see around.
The second I set foot into the Doll Factory on a cold day in December to watch my first Roller Derby bout, I knew my life had changed.  There was something about watching those women up there in booty shorts and fishnet tights, slamming each other into rails, skating backwards with the grace of a figure skater, and sliding for what seemed like miles on their knees before springing up and jumping back in the fray, that just lit me on fire.  I had to do it.
I won’t lie, it took me about four months to finally get up the courage to even try.  One night Steve and I were at a bout and one of the girls not playing that night came up to us to sell us some raffle tickets.  I always buy raffle tickets because I like to support the things I love and the girl asked me if it was my first time there.  I said no, that I come all the time.  It’s my favorite night out in Los Angeles, and then she looked me up and down and asked if I had ever considered trying out.  Steve, like a cartoon behind me, started shouting, “yes, yes she should try out.”  And then I did.
I showed up to my first class in a pair of shitty plastic skates, scared out of my mind.  I had no idea what to expect: the website said that the first week of class we would be working on stopping and falling.  This, of course, brought up terrifying thoughts of girls hurling themselves at us as we learned how to face-plant without breaking any bones.  But, as it turned out, the classes were like any other work out classes.  We showed up and introduced ourselves (one small difference, instead of the teacher having a normal name, our teacher proudly introduced herself as Axles of Evil, but you can call her Axles).  We then commenced learning how to stop without a toe stop, a maneuver that made my leg feel as though it was going to be ripped off at the thigh.
Throughout the course of the next eight weeks I picked up a second class every week, taught by a woman by the name of Puncherello, but you can call her Punchy.  And week after week, minute after minute as I slammed down onto the track only to pop back up again and keep doing whatever it was I was doing before slamming down onto the track again, and on and on until our hour was done.  I quickly realized the answer as to why girls keep doing this even after major injuries, there’s nothing else like it.  It’s a little hard to describe how great it feels to hit the ground as hard as you do only to pop up again.  It’s not so much the bruising (though that is a source of pride) or the fact that you get knocked down approximately 4,000 times an hour, it the fact that no matter how many times you fall, no matter how much that last one is stinging your thigh, you get back up again.  There is an amazing amount of strength and pride that this simple act provides.
And then there’s the army of women that are just as tough as you, just as dedicated as you, who are probably better than you, but would never ever say it.  They are the real reason to be a part of roller derby.  Because every time you do something you couldn’t do before, there are people clapping their wrist guards together cheering you on.  Every time you fall, there’s someone who knows you can pop back up….and if you can’t, there’s someone to take you to the doctor and get you drunk afterward.  There’s a reason to live and breathe derby, there’s a reason there are terms such as derby wife and derby widow/widower, it’s because once you’ve experienced this family, you’re hooked, you’re done looking.
And now, for me, for now, it doesn’t matter that a job I used to love is not fulfilling me any more, that at the age of twenty-six, I am only just learning that the only source of fulfillment in life can’t be work, because I have an army and they know exactly how much I can handle.
Peace, Love and Hipchecks,
Julia
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August 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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