Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jams Don't Last Forever

Recently, for the first time since my roller derby career started, I realized that one day it will have to end. I hope it's not for a long time. I have no finish line in sight, no plans to retire. But one day, this will have to end. I will skate no more.

I started roller derby two years ago on a whim. As I start my third season, I have seen many skaters come and go. The founding members of our league, of which I am one, are dwindling in number. 

To be clear, once again, there's no end in sight for me. When I say I am training for Team USA, I am not kidding. It may be ten years from now, but it's a serious goal of mine that I am not dreaming about. I am actively working on it. Skaters in my league refer to me as a “vet”, but in the larger sense of the sport as a whole, I see myself as just having started this whole roller derby thing. I see myself as roller derby Fresh Meat, a sponge ready to soak up any and all information I can to improve my ability as a skater.

When I started to write this blog, it was going to be a plea for skaters to revive the tradition of the after party. But after doing some “research” (read: drinking beers while watching old bout footage) on our league it morphed into something greater. A call to arms. A plea for us all to remember and cherish this time we spend together.

Because roller derby is not forever.

A little over two years ago, I joined a brand newborn Greensboro Roller Derby with my best friend, Shrimp n' Grit (who was also my co-worker at the time). We went from talking about Real Housewives and boys to discussing bearings and bout plays. Our friendship grew in a way that was so special, so intimate, so sincere. We got to be best friends and teammates (and sometimes competitors). Being a teammate with someone is not to be taken for granted.

Because sometimes they move away.

Roller derby is not forever.

Roller derby may be the most intense experience you ever have in your life. It is time consuming, bank account draining, sanity stealing, hurts. There is something almost every weekend: a party, bout, fundraiser, meeting, etc. Your non-derby friends and family miss you. Derby can also be frustrating and hard and sometimes you may never really catch on to things that seem so easy to other skaters. Roller derby can drain you of your very last inch of normalcy. But it is also so much more than that. It is a life experience that will fill you with pride and happiness until your dying breath. You did something awesome.

When “researching” for this blog I came across some bout footage that made me cry into my beer.

This video made me miss so many of my roller derby compatriots who are not in my derby bout-to-bout life anymore. I miss you Moloko Violet, AnneMaRIOT, Goodie Two Bruise, Molly Flogger, Ann What?!, Betty Rumble and (I am so glad computers don't get tear stains!) Shrimp n' Grit. I miss all the retired skaters, all the coaches who needed to move on. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you.

Teammates move away, retire, get too injured to return. Some join for the average 1-2 year commitment, others push for the long haul. Either way, your roller derby career has a finish line, whether you plan for it or are planning on creating a league in your retirement home. My call to arms is to enjoy it for all that it is worth. You can not get this time back, and jams do not last forever.

Both of my grandmothers are very ill right now, and they have both been very nostalgic with me during my weekly visits. Their stories fill my heart with love, and sometimes they break it. Neither of my grandmothers played sports. Neither had lots of girlfriends. Both loved men injured (mentally and physically) by war. My grandmothers- two very different women- never knew the joy of sharing a bench with beloved teammates, celebrating a hard-won victory, or the self-respect that comes from handling a loss with dignity. 

Hearing my two greatest influences pass their legacy on to me, their granddaughter, reminds me that life is fleeting. I will not live forever. One day, I will be lying in my death bed (hopefully surrounded by tons of hot men) reflecting on my life experiences.

I will know with my old lady pride that not only did I live an awesome life filled with adventure and friends...

I played roller derby. And I did it well.

Derby love,
Miller Lightnin'


  1. Yes you did and you do! You area true inspiration, miller-- both on and off the track, and you can bet that I'll be telling my grandchildren about our days together playing derby. Especially after you make Team USA!

  2. Both my grandmothers have passed away. I take after both of them in a lot of ways and miss them. I don't think they would have ever skated roller derby, but they sure did have spirit and a strong willed determination to take care of their family. This blog really touched my heart. Thank you for writing it! I'll see you on Team USA one day!

  3. my sweetest friend,

    thank you, thank you, for this wonderful reminder to cherish what we have. i admire you as a skater and am so grateful for derby bringing us together.
    i love you.

  4. Hey ladies! Thank you for your awesome and sweet comments. It has been and continues to be a joy to grow in this environment with yall. VIVA LA ROLLER DERBY! -Miller