About those 5 blog posts in 2013…

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I am a very big believer in always finding the silver lining and putting your best face forward.  I believe in this so much that after years of telling myself I love rainy days in order to persevere through them, I legitimately do prefer them these days and have grandiose dreams of moving to Seattle to be more in touch with my inner grey.  My will power and mental fortitude are strong.  I try to keep all complaints to myself, and failing that, to people I care about because I am always willing to hear them out when they need to vent so it seems fitting.  That said, blog readers, much as I love you, you are not my BFFs.  Sure my close friends read this, but so do strangers.  And after the ridiculousness of the past year I felt it best to hibernate.  I’ve had several almost blog posts, but almost doesn’t count.  I apologize for not being more apologetic about that.

My roller derby soul twin* just posted this amazingly heart-breaking and raw review of her 2013 and I can’t help being impressed.  Not so much that she’s had a lot on her plate this past year, I feel like many of my friends have, but that she chose to share it unapologetically.  When I messaged her to tell her how her post inspired me, she responded with, “everything that happens to us changes us and makes us who we are.”  She’s right.  I can’t just hide behind a veneer of a smile and not acknowledge the messier parts that made this year great.  Because as much as I’ve had my heart broken (alright, trodden all over by a stampede of Clydesdale horses) the crappy things that happened were completely necessary, and even if they weren’t I wouldn’t be who I am now without them and that is what made them worth living.  So crappy relationship that deteriorated in front of my eyes over months before I felt dead inside and couldn’t take it anymore?  Thanks for being you.  Having not one, but two car accidents this year that has cost me thousands of dollars despite neither of them being my fault? You rock.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

I keep too many things inside until I feel like I’m going to explode, spill some secrets I shouldn’t without meaning to, and feel like an overall bad person all the time, which is only made funnier when I hear friends tell me they wish they had my life (true story! some poor, unfortunate soul told me this last Saturday…silly girl).  Here’s the catch.  I’m not horrible and I’m not amazing.  I just am.  I make mistakes and then I pay the price just like the rest of the human population. I found the first half of 2013 was a giant stress nightmare because I hadn’t quite figured out the only common denominator in the situations causing me anxiety was me.  This realization only made things worse for a while, because I felt trapped and like there was nothing I could do about my situation.  I found I was rapidly falling out of love with James and had to make the best of it because we had months to go on our lease.  The craziness of roller derby committees and drama was not ceasing, even if I disengaged and tried to delegate.  Working with the general public is always going to be a crazy combination of seeing the best of humanity… and the worst.  I felt stuck and like I had nowhere to go.  And while I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to live for a while either.

There’s no need to tell me people have it worse.  I’m decently intelligent and rationally know this.  My aunt’s house burned down and I nearly lost her and my cousin this summer.  One of my favorite library teen’s brother is struggling with cancer and it is so heartbreaking to read their dad’s updates that I find I can’t read them at work anymore because I will just start crying hysterically on the desk hoping they get some positive news soon.  I logically and rationally understand that my life is pretty blessed and I have so many people in my corner.  Logic and reason also tell me I’m fairly attractive and funny and clever so there is no reason to continuously tell myself the inverse is true.  However, logic and reason don’t get invited to the depression party very often and it is very hard to pull yourself out of that by berating yourself with truth bombs.  The avalanche of change, misery and generalized anxiety that was 2013 only made this worse.

Something funny happened along the way.  I found my sense of humor about these things.  Maybe it takes me a moment to turn a situation and find the positive or tell myself it is an obstacle that will help build my character, but I get there in the end and that is more than I could say for 2012.  I also put myself out there more in the second half of the year and while I didn’t always like the results, I like where vulnerability gets me these days.  The more I opened myself up to the darkness and pain and saw where being real led me, the more comfortable I feel being myself and speaking up or saying no to things that are superfluous.  This past year I slowly started being true to myself and as painful as it was to process, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A perfect example of this is how my 2013 roller derby season unfolded.  Two of my best friends from the Jerzey Derby Brigade left for Garden State Rollergirls.  They had their own soul searching to do and found they belonged elsewhere. When the first told me she was leaving, I begged, bargained and pleaded.  I had to let her go.  When the second one texted me she was leaving, I crawled under my desk at work and ugly cried for twenty minutes because I felt alone and abandoned.  Then I got mad.  We were building something together, damnit.  I wanted to succeed to spite them because I’m the sort of person who will work her ass off out of spite, but only if positive results will come from it.  Whatever.  I already told you I’m not amazing, remember? I took on one of their committee roles because I’m arrogant and found that it was so painfully stressful I stopped eating for a while (which is entirely helpful to having a successful roller derby career).

I moved on and set new goals for myself each week and each month.  I started achieving these goals and felt incredibly proud of myself.  Cue disaster.  I jumped the apex (which is kind of a big deal when you haven’t done it before, non-derby types) successfully time after time until I attempted to do it on brand new wheels like an idiot.  I landed on my head, neck and spinal column, in that order.  I came back from injury leave just in time for the season opener, only the lack of eating made my performance pretty atrocious.  I fought through it and forced myself to eat anything just to get back in the habit and performed much better at the game we had 8 days later.  Each game we had for the remainder of the first half of the season I did a little better and I pushed harder where I could.  Despite this, I hated roller derby.  I just hated it.  Yet I heard people from every aspect of my life tell me all walks of my life tell me how excited they were to come see me play or how cool it was that I did roller derby.  Roller derby had become such a part of my identity that it didn’t matter that I no longer loved it.  It was what I did.

I took a break over the summer because, as any youth services librarian will tell you, summer reading is an enjoyable experience for the teens but very draining on the librarians.  I didn’t want to be miserable at all times so I took some of my free time back to sort out my priorities.  I found that I still loved the sport of roller derby, but this was the first point I thought that maybe the team that introduced roller derby to me, a league that was more of a family to me in some ways than my biological family, might not be for me.  I denied this, as I do many things (I am quite talented at denial) and I came back from leave a full month early to ensure I would be rostered for the September game.  I somehow made the necessary attendance credits through attending practices and coaching the fresh meat after a painful car accident only to find I wasn’t rostered.  I won’t get into it, but only because I’m still not entirely sure why I was benched, as the reasons provided by the captain in question changed every time I asked her.  Needless to say, this didn’t help the hurdle I was trying to overcome.

I had several interpersonal conflicts, shall we say, with this person throughout the season beginning in February.  Despite that, I was too stubborn to let it impact my love for my team or my sport.  I just kept pushing myself at practice and tried to enjoy the physical sensation of juking through the pack or pushing back when someone tried to knock me out.  Then came the curveball I hadn’t expected.  The same teammate that informed me that I “don’t give it [my] all at practice” was now getting in my face for going too hard at practice.  I felt like I couldn’t win and everything I did was a failure (mostly because I had a very loud woman getting too close for comfort and informing me of such).  I fought very hard to play nice and bottle it up until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was mentally defeated by this former friend turned bully but I refused to let her see me cry.  Until the moment I couldn’t help it and I broke down on the bench of a very important game.  My bench coach is amazing and lied her ass off because she knew why I was crying.  Fortunately, some of the Philly blockers had just handed my ass to me on a platter so the lie was very convincing that I was experiencing a lot of physical pain (of which was also true) and not emotional pain.  In that moment I knew I didn’t belong to my league anymore.  I had a choice.  I could quit right then and there, I could finish the game out and quit the next day or I could be a teammate and keep going until the season was done.  Which one do you think I did?

I still hadn’t realized that roller derby might still be fun if I went somewhere that matched my attitude.  I had one of the most depressing lunches of my existence with my bench coach the next day and was still in denial about leaving the team.  Ultimately I was such a downer I bailed on our post-lunch shopping trip and went home to cry.  And I couldn’t just cry in my bedroom, because that would be too convenient and didn’t account for my roommate’s jazz band practice going on directly below my room.  So in a moment of complete melodrama, I went to the woods across the street from my house and just cried.  If you don’t know me that well, let me tell you a little bit about myself and tears.  At some point in high school I lost the ability to cry properly.  If I did cry, I did it silently and for under a minute.  To me this was normal.  So when I started crying with every fiber of my being for several minutes on end to the point where I couldn’t breathe, it seemed like the truths I was denying myself were hard to avoid.  I needed to go.

Before I got my hopes up, I talked with my boss and she was incredibly supportive of the change in hours required to try out for Garden State.  She offered me encouragement and support and was one of the few people I talked to about this major life change.  I felt like an imposter going to practice and seeing my teammates because I knew if I got my way I would be leaving them.  That’s a hard thing to carry around.  One of our rookie skaters gushed about how excited she was to being so close to skating with me and that she couldn’t wait to do it.  Sure, go ahead, turn the knife a little more.  Because the truth was, as much as I didn’t fit in on my league anymore, they were still my family.  The thought of not skating with this rookie bothered me more than it probably should.  It was a hard decision but I told myself I was doing it so it didn’t matter.  Everyone told me to be selfish after Jim and I broke up and gosh darnit, this was how I planned on doing it.  Spoiler alert– I made the team.

Not everyone was happy with my decision, but most of the league supported it.  There was only one person who was rude to my face about it, but as stated earlier, she had a lot to do with my initial reason to go out for a new team, so who really cares?  Perhaps I shouldn’t share this, but it was a lot of what made 2013 what it was and as my soul twin stated in her post,”I’m sure people are going to be displeased that I’m telling those stories, but you know what? They’re my stories too and I have a right to them.”  I avoided my problems in my relationship by turning to derby in the beginning of the year.  Derby was there for me when I asked Jim to move out and derby was there for me when worked became too hectic and I didn’t want to be a librarian anymore.   To go through this entire journey where my soul was crushed, my body battered and I lost the will to go on in my derby career and have come out the other side is amazing and an inspiration to the rest of the mess that is 2013.  I’m now on a league that has a charter ranked 86th, I’m going out for said charter in a few short weeks and feel so much encouragement and support from my new teammates that it really feels like I made the right decision.  And the thing I’ve learned about making the right decisions in both derby and life is that sometimes you’re gonna feel shitty.  Really, really shitty.  But it will be alright in the end, and if you’re lucky, it will be great.

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Perhaps this post was too personal and too long, but I need to get 2013 out of my system before I return to this blog in 2014 more content to be myself and be there for you, the reader.  I think it’s tacky when bloggers apologize for not writing, so I won’t do that.  I want to thank you for being so understanding that 2013 was difficult.  I want to thank you for constantly telling me I don’t blog enough and you miss my writing.  I want to thank you for not leaving me, even if it seemed like I left you.  I didn’t.  I have an entire phone filled with pictures of posts that never were, and might still be.  I love you guys and I look forward to sharing with you more in the coming year.  Happy New Year!!

*In roller derby you get a lot of weird relationships.  They are almost entirely non-sexual.  (I said almost) For example, my derby wife is married to a lovely man named Pete and we have only hugged, despite being derby married.  That’s just how it goes.  My roller derby soul twin is Tifa Knockshard from the NJ Hellrazors (not my team, for those of you not in the know) and she and I pretty much have the same essence.  To the point where one of my former teammates said, “Of course you’re already friends with her.  I saw her on the track and immediately thought of you.”