Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dinosaur Derby by Furious George

 This blog entry speaks to me, mostly because I joined derby at the ripe old age of 39. Yes, I have to try harder than younger skaters, and I have to take care of myself better, but I also have more life experience than the younger skaters I've run into, and more patience and focus. Being an older skater isn't always a terrible thing. :)

Dinosaur Derby by Furious George
I was broken before I began.
In more ways than one, actually. At 37 years of age, my body has already been through a few wringers, and my fears of rejection and abandonment had recently been solidified at end of a horrible relationship.

So of course I joined derby.

This conversation is about that, joining derby as a dinosaur, and I’m not talking about the ferocious man-eaters I loved in Jurassic Park. I’m talking about the word dinosaur I used once to describe my parents' old microwave. Old and busted. Also, huge. That microwave was huge.

Consequently, so am I, but I digress.

So many people find Roller Derby at different times during their lives. Most of the people I’ve talked to in this community will tell you it was “Just when they needed it.” I am no stranger to that cliché, but I do find myself asking God why I didn’t find Derby sooner? You know, back when I was 16? I was in the best shape of my life, attending Martial Arts classes every day for two hours a day. Hitting people was fun back then too. We just didn’t do it at 100mph.
Or maybe when I was 21, on the verge of marrying someone because I felt like it was what everyone was supposed to do to feel normal. I was still in pretty decent shape too. I still had enough teenage leftover angst from those irritating bullies from High School.

Or maybe 26, when I was working a dead end job and at my heaviest weight of my life. I had no motivation, no encouragement, and no social life. That was probably my worst year ever. It would have been the perfect time to discover derby.

Nope. For some reason I found Derby when I was 35. My knees already hurt and the only time I had ever been on skates was way back in the 80’s, right during the death of derby (Sorry Rollerjammers, you know it is true). I hadn’t worked out in about ten years (see age 26 above) and I was reeling from the end of a toxic friendship that left me wary of “strong empowered females.”

But I stuck around. I made it through the Baby Giraffe phase, to wondering if I’d ever make the charter, to my first moment of burnout. It’s been about 3 years, and I’ve seen many people come and go. Interestingly enough, most of the women who show up are easily younger than I am, and I wonder why they don’t stick around as long as I have.

It’s tough when you’re already past your prime and you’re starting out at the same place that some of these young whippersnappers come in. There is a girl on my league that is barely 24 and I’ve watched her snap back from some horrendous hits that would leave my old, brittle, decalcified bones shattered from intimidation. Let’s face it, I’m not as fast as I used to be. I’m not as able bodied, I’m not as quick to recover from practice. I’m always sore and it’s harder for me to keep up with skaters that I consider below my skating experience, mostly because I’m older.

The hardest realization was when someone half my age (almost) got a charter spot before I did. It’s not because I didn’t try, I just couldn’t perform as well as she could.

I’ve heard this multiple times in derby, and life, that comparison is a thief of joy. And I’ll say it again until I get it through my thick dinosaur skull. Comparison is a thief of joy. I joined derby because it was fun, after all. It brought me joy. It still brings me joy. I don’t know why I found it so late in life, but it did. I’m on the older end of the spectrum, and there are times where I feel like Iron Maven in “that roller derby movie” (Whip It, of course) where she tells Babe Ruthless:“I'm 36. Guess when I started skating. I was 31. 'Cause it took me that long to find one thing that I was really good at.” However, I wouldn’t have ridiculed Babe Ruthless for starting so early. I would have applauded her for starting young, for finding a sport so encouraging that it allows all skill levels, all shapes, all genders, and especially all ages.

I guess all I’m trying to say, is don’t wait. If you’re reading this and you feel like you’ve always wanted to try Roller Derby, or anything you wanted to try. Do it. Don’t wait until you’re older and you can’t do the things you could when you were younger. Don’t wait until you’re a dinosaur.

Better yet, just be a Dinosaur. Have you seen Jurassic World? (Spoiler Alert) That old T-Rex is still alive and kicking. She looks bad ass with a few scars and she kicks that Indominus Rex’s ass, with the help of her teammates, of course. Those spring chickens might be limber and quick, but nothing beats a little bit of wisdom and experience. And they don’t have as many teeth.)
I am Dinosaur. Hear me roar. Photo Credit: www.