I was so excited for the 2014 Roller Derby season. So many of my dreams were coming true. I had been elected as Captain of my league’s B Team and had spent hours pouring over leadership manuals to figure out what I needed to do. I had also decided to try a new aspect of roller derby – Jamming. Hitting women on skates had always been my favorite thing about roller derby, my strength. But, after five years, I decided it was time to try something new and put the star on my head instead of always reaching for the pivot panty.
Before the day that changed my life, my team had only met once. I was so nervous – being a leader wasn’t natural for me. I have always preferred to go my own way and only be responsible for myself. But I was excited and newly read up on all things team captaining, so I shared some ideas I’d come up with. I still remember that meeting with The Silencer on one side of me and Savage Patch Kid on the other. I struggled to convey my concepts… with limited success. Communicating in person, with words, was not my strong suit then, much like it isn’t my strong suit now. But I try. I tried then, too.
I figured as the year went on, I’d get better. I’d learn and grow and help my team to win. I knew I’d do well as Captain. My derby strengths could only help the team – aggression, steadiness, confidence. An unwillingness to ever give up. And a fundamental understanding of what it means to be part of a team. I wasn’t the best skater in my league, or the worst for that matter, but I was a veteran who had seen many things and been around many years. It was clear I wasn’t going anywhere. They would be able to rely on me.
Until they couldn’t. Until that fucked up day on January 25, 2014 when I hit my head, got a concussion, and never recovered.
As I struggled with my new limitations, I chose the practical route of trying with all my might to hold on to my job. Skating and the game were things I desperately ached for, but I needed money to pay for new knee pads and a home to store my derby gear in. Plus, you know, food and stuff.
More time passed, and I just kept on not getting better. And I kept not being able to return to derby, or the many years of connections I had there. I disappeared off the face of the earth as I struggled to keep my job. One year past, then two. I still struggled. The people I had known moved on, had all sorts of new experiences and whole new lives… while I continued to struggle with the same stupid limitations, the same stupid stuff. So deeply lonely most of the time I couldn’t even let myself know it, and missing the connections I had had with my teammates but without the social skills or energy to reach out. More time passed. I was injured a second time – this time by a can of Hunt’s tomato sauce falling on my head. In response, my life had the grace to finish falling apart. And now I’m here. Three years later. The entire last three years of my life a story of struggle and failure and trying to accept my new self. Fuck.
To give all of you derby peeps an idea of how long it has been since I skated, three new sets of WFTDA rules have come out. When I skated, there were still minors. And one minute penalty box times. The game keeps changing, evolving. Roller derby is like a freight train hurtling forward at top speed; nothing can stop it. People fall off, but the sport keeps going. I am glad I was a part of roller derby. That, I will never regret.
As part of my annual reflections, I have taken the time to figure the amount of work income I have lost due to this injury. After one year, I had lost $24,000 in income (my one year blog here: A Year Later). After two years, I had lost $39,000 in work income (my two year blog is here: I’m Turning 2).
Drum roll please…
After three years of this injury and losing my job, I now have lost $95,000 in work income.
I think I’m going to stop counting. It’s just getting too depressing. And really, does it matter anymore? My job is gone. I’m unemployed and disabled. What could have been, that lifetime, is so far gone from where I am now and I’m ready to let it go. It doesn’t matter anymore.
What is more important to me, now, is how has this injury qualitatively effected my life. Here are the highlights of what I have lost in the past three years:
- My Job
- My Intellect
- My Freedom
What more is there to say? It sucks.
To balance that, here are some things I have gained:
- Increased understanding and acceptance of myself as an imperfect, needing, fragile being
- Greater compassion for myself and others
- Knowledge that I am loved for something other than what I can do for other people
Pretty good stuff, I have to say. It has been a long, difficult road to gain these greater understandings. But… at least I got something for showing up.
Looking towards my future, here is what I know. I might get better. I might not. I have little control of what might or might not happen. I will do my best to create an environment supportive of healing, but even if I do everything perfectly I might improve to a certain point and not beyond. While on one hand that is shitty, on the other hand it has given me the freedom to let go in a way I never have before. Let go of expectations. Let go of future plans. Let go of the stories I told myself for the first 38 years of my life.
With every ending comes a beginning. I am finally past the ending part, thank the Goddess. It was a long and fucking rocky road. Every thing I had, every concept of myself I possessed was broken. Now, I heal. Now – right now – I am laying the foundation of my new life based on what I can do, based on who I am now. That is something to be thankful for.