Remember how a little while ago I wrote a blog on not letting roller derby get you down, because it’s just a game, etc?
Print it out, set fire to it. Let us never speak of it again.
I’m in the middle of a horrible roller derby slump. I feel like I’ve peaked, having skated for eighteen months. I love jamming most of all but in the past few months every time I’ve been knocked off and bridged back, or I didn’t get lead, or been sent to the box, I question my resolve and my ability. I watch other jammers jump apexes and inspire cheers and hoots from the bench, and I see our team get stronger and stronger with every game they win, and yes I’m happy and excited. Roller derby is not a game for individuals, you must play as a team. But god damn, it feels as if I’m actually getting worse. My ego hurts.
I felt completely invincible a few months ago, when I considered myself a strong, reliable jammer. If we were stuck I knew I could always rack a few points up. Perhaps it’s because we’re playing bigger, stronger teams than we ever have before, but these days I feel like the spare dick at a wedding.
“So-and-so is going to be an amazing power-jammer”, “Miss Thing is quickly becoming one of our top skaters”, and so on. It is pathetic to feel envious of people you love and yet I do. Every jam I’m not picked for gives me this cold, vinegary feeling in my gut; like I’ve swallowed a huge pickled onion. An onion pickled in piss. And others have told me, and I have told myself, that this is a phase. Everyone goes through the derby slump – it’s like puberty again, because you go off for a mini-weep in the toilets a lot and get bad skin and compare yourself to your friends. Every tiny nit-pick about your own performance blooms into a full-grown insecurity it becomes impossible to ignore. But it’s just a phase.
I whinged to my coach recently that I felt like I was getting worse in training. He explained that I was looking at it wrong – I wasn’t getting worse, the team was getting better. Our walls were becoming impenetrable, and as a skater who has jammed a lot for my team in the past year, this was really exciting. That helped a lot – I realised that, yes, I’d been putting in a LOT of work, but I wasn’t the only one. It was a nice big slice of perspective.
But – and this is important – the work-rate of others does not depreciate your own. The biggest thing to realise when you are caught in the swamp of uncertainty is that telling yourself that you suck doesn’t help. When you are ill, you either take medicine that helps you to feel better, or you just suck it up and ride it out.
When you are in the derby slump, your medicine is your own kindness.
Watching my team-mates glide through a pack, the tiny voice in my head (which for some reason sounds like Brittany Murphy) says ‘I’m useless, everyone knows I’m a shit jammer, I’m faking it’, and – one of my own personal favourites – ‘I’m riding on the coat-tails of being good in Fresh Meat and now I’m playing it for real and I’m not ready.’
Brittany Murphy is chatting nonsense and here’s why. Say you’ve got a cold. Do you stand outside in winter in a wet jumper rubbing shit all over yourself? No, because that’s insane. It’ll also make your cold worse. If your self-doubt is a cold, then fuelling your self-doubt with Brittany Murphy’s smack-talk about being a failure is exactly like rubbing shit all over yourself. You don’t get rid of a cold by adding to it and you don’t get better at roller derby by telling yourself you suck.
Instead of comparing myself to other skaters, and pulling out my own eyelashes wishing for the strength of ten Mighty Mighty Bashes, I’m trying very hard to remember that no two skaters are ever the same. Everyone has their good points and bad points. Some are great at juking, others at jumping – some are very strong and some are very brainy. You might not be the strongest or the fastest or the best at throwing hits but you know you serve a purpose somehow – you just have to keep working and find out what it is. To everyone else, it’s obvious. You wouldn’t be there otherwise.
Feeling like you’re shit at something you’re passionate about is horrible. But as long as you’re still doing it, and you keep trying to push your way through that seemingly impenetrable wall of I’m-not-good-enough though it might take weeks and months, you cannot say that you have failed. And you’ll climb out of the derby slump, realise that while you were freaking out about being rubbish you’d actually been getting kind of great, and eventually you’ll wonder what the hell you were worried about to begin with. And we’ll all live happily ever after. The end!