Growing up as a small-town overachiever, I have found one of the hardest lessons to learn as an adult is how to not be that great at something. Currently, I’m learning to embrace the suck. And it sucks.
I play roller derby and it has taught me a number of valuable things as an adult that I never encountered as a kid who mostly shunned team sports. Initially when I joined my small local, after learning how to skate I immediately fell into coaching and committee roles, eventually becoming captain of a team and being one of the better players in a quite small pond. A year or so ago I transferred to a larger league as I wanted to better my own skills. It’s been rough as I’ve had to endure not making rosters and being looked over as just another blocker in a sea of other skaters who were often better than me, and sometimes with far less experience and far more natural talent. It wasn’t enough to quietly show up and try my best, it wasn’t enough to be a team player, to go to every wind-up and social event and fundraiser, to fit in crosstraining at the gym around full time work, to always be reliable, dependable, dedicated Eris. I even got an end of year award – for travelling the most kilometres to practice. Thanks?
I lacked the flair, extroversion and natural talent. I’m the world’s okayest roller derby player. It’s been a slow grind, and there has been no-one to pull me aside and give me encouragement or special attention, no-one to tell me how amazing or inspiring I was. I didn’t realise I needed the pats on the back or the glowing approval until I wasn’t getting it anymore. My ego felt bruised and I feel hurt and childish for even feeling that way to begin with. I’m not special! Who would have thought. My gentle, privileged childhood lied to me!
The thing is I love the sport so I keep on doing it even though it cuts into my social life and my spiritual life. And I know it’s amazing that I’ve managed to keep at it for 7 years now when it has been so hard so often. Retirement is just around the corner, and frequent silly setbacks always bring the looming date closer. But the growth that I have gotten from learning to not be the best at something, (not to mention the improved body image and friendships acquired), has been worth it.
At the moment it is team draft season and today I wasn’t able to make an important practice due to some bad traffic. I felt so stupid, turning my car around and sulking all the way home, plus I was itching all over due to a weird reaction to a new pre-workout powder I just bought yesterday. Cue negative guilt spiral. I pessimistically projected ahead to not making a roster due to missing just one practice, of being outshone or forgotten. I stomped upstairs and turned my computer on and decided to flick through my blog reader, and an old post by Thorn Mooney popped up that happened to be just the right thing I needed to read:
Losing is hard, and it’s a lot easier to just not try. It’s much easier to drink and be angry and complain on the Internet about how unfair things are. It’s much easier to come up with reasons why you shouldn’t be expected to do things.
Quitting is easy. Never trying to begin with is even easier.
Maybe I won’t make the next team draft. Maybe I’m not the greatest at something. But I can learn to suck at roller derby and life in general. And as usual, the parallels between my roller derby persona and my witchy persona seem to inextricably interleave…
At the moment, I am trying to summon some slightly scarred bits of my ego together to run a circle again, to move in the pagan community again, to assist others and share space with others and learn and move and grow again. It came to a head yesterday when I dissolved in a mess of tears, when an old narrative of not being good enough, of potentially sucking or not being liked by people, of things not being perfect and blowing up in my face again, was niggling its way through my brain. Throw in a bit of burning the candle at both ends, and you end up with the ball of meh that is so easy to retreat to.
This is why I don’t blog or post on YouTube more. I think too much about this crap. The cynicism about community and paganism runs deep. But now I think I’m getting too old for this. I need to grow up from it, to move upwards and onwards. The Saturn Return hangover has gone on for too long.
Oh, for my charmed 20s, when everything was fresh and optimistic and easy.
The thing is, I’m a strong, imperfect person. I am fucking awesome in lots of ways. I have a lot to offer the pagan (and roller derby) community. And I am not afraid to fail, again. Where is the fun in not trying? I don’t want to be that person who is drinking and complaining on the Internet… well not too often, anyways.