The first time my sister saw me coach roller derby – rolling around bellowing instructions, joking with the skaters and giving encouragement – her immediate reaction was a resounding, “WHO ARE YOU?!”
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been the shyest person alive. Approaching a salesperson for help was an ordeal; asking for directions was even worse. And telling someone what to do? Forget about it.
Enter roller derby. I stumbled into the arena for the first time the day after a night of Halloween partying, having no idea what to expect. Instead of terrifying eight-wheeled beasts bent on knocking me down, I met a group of the funniest, bravest, most supportive women I’ve ever met (who also want to knock me down – but with love!). And among them, I found my voice, my motivation and my YARRRRR.
The process of learning to play roller derby involves a lot of milestones: your first successful crossover, the first time you knockabitchdown, the day you finally pass the dreaded 25 laps in 5 minutes test. Reaching those milestones with your teammates cheering you on every step of the way instills a confidence like nothing else I know. With that confidence came the ability to speak in a pack, and then in front of the whole group. Before I knew it, I was leading drills and yelling at the top of my lungs.
Along with the mental confidence came a physical confidence. One of the (many, many) reasons I love roller derby is that it not only does it accept all bodies, it actually needs all bodies to form well-rounded teams. I used to go to the gym to lose weight, to make my clothes fit better, to make myself look the way I “should.” Today? I go to fine-tune my body to skate faster laps, make harder hits, stay on my feet when someone hip-checks me. I’m so proud of the muscular thighs that can’t fit into skinny jeans. I’m amazed at what my body can do, and what it can take.
So, in response to my sister’s question: who am I? I’m a person who is not afraid to speak up, and also to lean on my teammates for support. I’m a person who looks at a challenge not as an insurmountable wall, but as a dare. I’m a person who loves her strengths and her scars. I’m a pirate.
I’m Deanna Destroi, #1701.