I can tell you the exact moment I not only accepted my derby retirement, but actually began to enjoy it. It was at Spring Roll. It had been a rough weekend for me. Being around derby had been rough as a whole, and this was a whole weekend of it. But my husband was playing and damned if I wasn’t going to be there to support him.
Do we look like we were having fun? Because we were having a blast.
Most of the weekend I was mopy and bummed out. On the final day, in the last bout my husband was playing in, I started having fun again. I had spent the better part of the day drinking with a couple of other retired skaters. And when I ended up hooked to the lovely Roll’r Damage by her suspenders and doing yoga in the suicide seats. I felt like I belonged again. There were moments after that that were still rough, and even now some emotions are raw. But overall, I’m happy with where I am.
Acceptance came quicker for me than most. Somewhat due to my short tenure (a season and a half). A lot due to my derby wife and derby mistress left shortly before me, so I had someone to talk to. Also because I’ve told my story. There’s a quote from Flannery O’Connor “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Putting the words on paper (erm…committing them with pixels) helped me to process what I was going though. Getting emails and private messages from all of you helped as well. It made me realize this was not a problem with my league, but a problem with the culture of our sport.
My goal with this series was to tell a story. A story that is uniquely mine, and yet seems to be highly relatable. The story of leaving behind something you love, only to end up feeling like the one who was abandoned. A reflection of the emotions that go with that, and finding peace with it. A story through which other retired skaters can begin their own healing journey, and current skaters can maybe understand why we’re not around as much anymore.
I’m not the only one who has a story to tell. Red Stang from the early days of Circle City has a fantastic post over on Elektra Q-Tion’s blog and so does Dreadnought from Boston Derby Dames. Even the summer issue of Five on Five Magazine had an article titled the “Retirement Struggle.”
I’m hoping this story will join their stories and the dialogue to make things better. This is not a retired skater issue. This is not a current skater issue. This is not a league issue. This is a derby issue. There are small steps we can all take to make things better.
This is what derby is all about.
Our “team mom” told us all when we started skating. “Don’t pick a derby wife in a rush. Don’t pick someone just because they’re in your fresh meat class. Pick someone who would be your friend regardless of derby.” And she is 100% right. I got a text from my wife one day saying she was thinking of quitting derby but was worried about her relationships and friendships. It felt good to be able to tell her in full honesty “We met because of derby, that is not why we are friends. If nothing else I’ll always be there for you.” You will want that support when this is all done.
Please try to remain involved, even if involved for you means attending a game and having a beer. It’s hard, I know. I was forced into continuing my involvement when I didn’t want to because my husband still played. I am thankful for that. It forced me to to adjust and evolve.
Remember us, please. A small gesture such as listing us on the site (Bleeding Heartland does this incredibly well), can mean the world to a skater that feels ostracized. One of the things I hear the most is retired skaters feel they don’t matter to the league anymore. A little recognition can go a long way.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I didn’t love my time on the flat track. Or that I don’t still love my league. Derby has given me the chance to grow and evolve more than I ever thought possible. Even leaving was a learning experience and a time of personal reflection. There’s not a moment of that experience that I would give up or rewrite.
I would like to add a special thank you to all the skaters, current and retired, who supported me during this project. I’d like to thank those of you who as I started saying how I was hurting reached out to me. Those who I feel didn’t realize how their actions were being interpreted, and when they did made a course correction. It makes it feel as if at least someone got something out of this. And that has made it all worthwhile.