“Talent is a pursued interest. In other words, anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” Bob Ross
It’s like Bob Ross has been watching me the last six months and decided to give me a mantra–as my Level 2 course ended this weekend, there is nothing that can sum up the last ten weeks better than this. I have learned, through trial and error, that the best way to master something is to simply do it. I wish that I had learned this earlier in my life, as this simple realization has empowered me to try so many more things, to brave the unknown (like red lipstick, or cauliflower). It has honestly been one of the most eye-opening and self-affirming lessons I’ve learned in my entire life. I don’t know if it’s simply the result of growing older and realizing that my dreams are best pursued by ME, or that I am finally outgrowing the laziness that has characterized any endeavor, but I am finally discovering that power really does live within me. I can be either my own best friend or my own worst enemy.
Ok, I’ll quit with the touchy-feelies. On to my final recap.
This Saturday started with another extended warm-up that ended with a one-minute endurance sprint, which always inspires me to really push myself. I love seeing how far I can go with it–how much faster can I be today? Can I actually make myself go hardhardhard for an entire minute? Can I keep breathing all the way to the end? It’s usually just a race against myself, although this week others could tell I have been working on my speed. [side note: Riley if you’re reading this, you have no idea how your words gratified me. Everything you said to me I hold close to my heart in moments of doubt–it was appreciated far more than you can know]. Although I have been trying to build my endurance and really look forward to maxing out, by the end of the sprint I had to take myself to the rail because y’all, I seriously thought I was going to THROW. UP. I hadn’t even eaten much for breaky but all the blood left my stomach to help my limbs and I figured if I was gonna yak it’d better be off the track. In the end I just coughed a bit and had a laugh. I’ll figure this breathing thing out yet.
But the best part? One word.
We divided up into teams, promised not to get our feelings hurt, and proceeded to actually skate a derby bout. And? It. Was. AWESOME. I started out in the pack because I really wanted to see what blocking felt like, and because I didn’t want to assert myself immediately into the jammer position. I’m glad I started with blocking, because it gave me a very keen insight into what actually happens in a pack, how very little you are thinking about your feet or movements, how aware you must be of all the other players, and how key muscle memory is. At one point I fell and landed in the “All-4” position, which I have spent considerable time practicing lately. Because I didn’t need to think about it, I was able to land in the correct position and then jump right back up–an affirmation that with practice anything can become second nature.
Without vanity, can I tell you how proud of myself I was? When I finally put on the star panty (jammer’s helmet covering), I was nervous–so nervous!–but when my whistle blew I was impressed with how my feet just knew what to do–how they knew how to run to gain enough speed to pass the other jammer (something I don’t remember teaching them). How smoothly my mind and feet settled into the game, how all thoughts of doubt vanished in the pace of the game. Variations of I CAN DO THIS and THIS IS NOT FOR GODS ALONE and ITS ABOUT DAMN TIME all ran through my head, and I allowed myself a moment of pride when I slipped through the pack unimpeded for four points, or when I caught up to the pack after a collision. (I do think it’s important to note here that I also fell quite a bit during our scrimmage, but I’m of the opinion that falling means you’re trying, so I’m not embarrassed). I know a lot of my “success” during jamming was because there are some seriously kick-ass blockers in my class and also it was our first time playing, but I don’t want to allow that to diminish my victory over doubt. It was confirmation of the most important kind, that I am not making up either my accomplishments or my passion for this sport.
Yes, I have wondered, occasionally, why I trained for something that doesn’t really fit the mental image I have of myself–I do not consider myself hardcore or an athlete of any kind. But week after week, I have eagerly looked forward to my two hours on Saturday. Even now I cannot pinpoint the why of it, I only know that I love it, I am good at it, I want to keep doing it, and that is enough for me.
Driving home from practice, I was struck by how profoundly happy I was. There was no big smile on my face, no one moment to pin my elation to but rather it was the humbling, overwhelming sensation that I had been given the gift of a beautiful journey. I had dreamed, I had discovered discipline and pushed myself, and then I had proven that I, Ashley, am capable of accomplishment. Anything after this point is bonus. No matter what happens this next weekend, no matter if my derby career stalls out, there is nothing that can take away the deep-seated satisfaction of knowing that I am able, if only I am willing.
All that said, I’m still ready for this next weekend to be done with, so that I can know, one way or another. I have spent the last six months working towards this moment, six months of trying to hurry up to be good enough, six months of falling and getting back up, six months of learning how to be an athlete, all in anticipation of this Saturday. And now they are here. Tryouts are in five days. We are counting in days now, not weeks.
I’ve been trying to prepare and psych myself up for it–I spent the weekend trying to visualize myself actually skating the tryout but could only “do” one lap at a time because my heart kept doing that dropping/skipping beats thing. But I have been practicing those basic skills anytime I’m on skates. At the rink with my friends, I do those I doubt myself most in–falls, plow stops, and of course the box turn, over and over and over again. But it’s not my skating skills I’m worried about. It’s knowing I can practice as much as I want, but in the end it’s all about my mental game.
I keep telling myself that of course I can do this. They’re looking for controlled skaters, they’re testing you to see if YOU skate your skates or your skates skate YOU. And I AM controlled, I AM comfortable on eight wheels. I know I can do this, I know if I can keep it together mentally for about five minutes it’ll be alright. It’s just that I’m fearful that in that moment I’ll lose my nerve. So I’ve been practicing that moment before the first suicide, when I’m waiting to hear the first tweet of the whistle. I imagine what I’ll say to myself, what prep talk I’ll give: “You’ve done this a hundred times, it is no different than Lacy or Polly standing there. Just hold it together and show them what you show yourself. You are here for YOU and they can enjoy the show if they’d like.” Something like that. I don’t think I’ll turn into a nervous blithering idiot–I already did that the first time, and there will never be another first time (thankeejesus). If I can convince myself that I am hardcore and deserve it, then I just might stand a chance. I guess I’ll just have to practice.