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Roll N Rawkher

I am an introvert by nature, comforted by solitude, perfectly content to go to a movie on my own or spend the weekend alone with a book. I never had any sense of family or interdependence. Growing up, my parents, brother, and I spent most of our time in separate rooms: me in a locked bedroom, my mother in the kitchen, my father in the living room, and my brother running around with his friends. We neither ate meals together nor took trips together. I learned to be independent and self-reliant to a fault.

Despite my propensity for self-reliance, I had always wanted a family. When I was 7, I formed a neighborhood club called the Rad Rockers. In high school, I formed bands and sincerely believed that my 3-member grrl band would tour the country in my Chrysler minivan, playing indie record stores and dive clubs and being sofuckingpunk. Well, that didn’t quite pan out. After my last band fell apart, I gave up trying to find or build a family. What did I do instead? I took up distance running and I loved it. It suited my introversion and inclination for self-sufficiency and ego-centrism. I trained almost exclusively alone, began races alone, ran them alone, and crossed finished lines alone. I competed only with myself and was accountable only to the nagging personal trainer that existed in my head.

When I decided to go to my first derby practice, I imagined it would be like in the movies. We would all shoot the shit, come up with cool derby names, and maybe we would then raise a little hell at a bar afterwards.

But, wait. These chicks were serious about the game. And they expected me to be serious about the game, too.

For the first month, the only thought in my head was: I HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT IS HAPPENING! I’M GOING TO BREAK AN ANKLE DOING THIS CRAZY SHIT! But I also could not stop thinking about derby all day, every day. I was enthralled by the sport. I wanted to sit in front of the SFVRD Facebook group page all day (which I … did…and maybe still do…) and read all the articles and posts about wheels and hits and rules.

Also, during the first few months, I assumed I would have a natural talent at the game since I am an athlete and run marathons and work out five times a week and shit. Yeah, turns out that running by yourself for hours every week doesn’t exactly make you a good roller derby player – or even a good skater. Huh? What? Who knew? I realized that I kept trying to play as though I was on the track by myself! Then, during one important practice, a trainer came up to me (realizing I had no idea what to do on the track) and said “When in doubt, find a buddy and GET TO THE FRONT! Don’t be a lone wolf, Rawk!”

I repeated that mantra in my head during the next couple of scrimmages and felt a little less lost and little more part of the game each time. Then, I started realizing how my reclusive lifestyle had been limiting my success in other ways – like in my career and (obviously) my social life. I am slowly learning that it is ok to ask for help, to admit that I don’t know something, and that, lo and behold, people want to help. I just have to ask for it. Being part of something, contributing to a shared goal, thinking of myself as part of a group rather than a perpetually separate entity are all new and somewhat scary experiences.

But that is also how I know this is good and that I am growing as a person and, yes, as a derby player. And, you know, all those hours spent by myself weren’t really much fun in comparison.