Sunday, February 2, 2014

When A Friend Is On the Fence About Retiring.

I've been involved in derby for six years now, and even though that's not a record for any player, it certainly is a long time. I have seen most of the people I skated with in my first year retire from derby due to injury, annoyance, or real life issues, and yes, I get a little wistful. I don't want any of my teammates to retire, regardless of the reason; I've been through it so many damned times, that I actually have a protocol I follow to keep my emotions in check.  It's not easy for anyone when a leaguemate retires, even if it's the right time and for the right reasons.

Lately, it seems like more people are wavering between staying in derby or leaving. When close
Two of my friends retired. Let's hope Tsunami keeps taking photos!
friends tell me they're thinking about retiring, I have to fight the urge to immediately panic and talk them out of it. I know, it's a natural reaction, because it makes us question why we're still in it. Don't we all have those days when we question the continuing commitment to derby?  I think I question it at least once a week; is it still worth it? Most of the time I have to admit to myself that I'm still having a hell of a good time, but sometimes I am looking forward to the finishing line myself. So, how do you treat someone who makes the "I'm thinking about retiring" noises.

1. Don't overreact to the words "I'm thinking about retiring." Sometimes people just say that, especially when they're having a less than stellar day with derby.  Who doesn't want to walk away from derby when there's stupid drama? Guilty. Frustration makes people say a lot of things that they don't necessarily mean.

2.  If your friend mentions it a couple of times, ask her or him some follow up questions. If the retirement issue isn't brought up in a time of frustration, now might be the time to ask a few questions.
a. When are you thinking about retiring?  If they have a date in mind, this might be the real deal. The more specific they are about the date, then that's a huge sign they have been really thinking about it.  If your friend says "I dunno, maybe at the end of the season", that's not super specific, but if she says "after the November bout" then it's probably pretty serious.
b. Do you have any plans after you leave derby?  Someone who hasn't really thought the whole retirement thing through probably won't be able to answer this question with anything specific, but is she says "I'm going to start training for that half marathon in October" well it's probably a done deal.

If all signs definitely point to an imminent retirement, there are some things you shouldn't probably say.

1. Don't try to talk someone out of retirement.  I know it's tempting, and for the most part we try to talk our friends out of retirement because we want them to know they'll be missed. I've made this mistake several times in the past; I've tried to talk someone out of retiring, and made her really feel bad about her decision.  Be supportive of your friend; even if she's thought it through, leaving derby can be a really traumatic adjustment period. She doesn't need you questioning her choice; she needs support. Sometimes you have to swallow your feelings to help your friend feel supported.  Sometimes all you can say to someone who drops the "r" word on you is "ok."

2.  Don't treat them like they are disappearing, becoming invisible or whatever.  You may feel awkward when you finally process the information that your friend is retiring.  It doesn't mean that she's abandoning you, although it might feel like that at first. I remember the first time one of my close friends told me she was retiring; it felt like a punch in the guts, and I wanted to say "don't leave me!" Yes, my feelings instantly became about me, but after the initial shock, I realized that she would be my friend whether she was in or out of derby. She wasn't going to disappear; she was just redefining a part of her life.

3.  It's ok to grieve a bit, but don't be a dick about it. When your friend leaves derby, it is like a little death. Things won't be exactly the way they were, but that's life in general. It's ok to be sad, but remember it's not actually a death. Derby is awesome, but it too shall pass from you life one way or another. Be melancholy, be bummed out, but don't be a drama queen about it, especially in front of your friend who is retiring.

1 comment: