Updated: Nov 30, 2022
by Mel Blackwood @troubleon8wheels
I believe in courage over comfort.
I recall my first experience of roller skating as an adult. I had dropped a message as requested to the roller derby league - Hot Wheel Roller Derby - and gotten a reply. Reserved some kit. Not being sure what to wear or take with me. I remember wanting to cancel at least daily before going, but I knew someone was expecting me. I walked into the corridor, to find a group of women looking as badass as they come.
They were all body shapes and sizes, varied skin colours, united by helmets, mouthguards and roller skates with noisy wheels. I recall shaking on the inside, standing at the edge of the group, smiling nervously. A woman took me with her, showed me where to collect kit, and I sat putting it on. It took about twenty minutes to get everything on, the right way up, and then I couldn't stand up. I shuffled backwards and forwards across that hall for an hour and a half, watching the rest of the women sprinting around the hall, shouting and pushing. It was thrilling and I was hooked. Right at the end of the session, as the women came back towards me, I panicked and fell over - no one had touched me, but my muscles had jolted and as I was unused to the wheels, I fell over, right on my coccyx. Oooof! I was instantly crying, but instead of acknowledging how much it hurt, I hid the pain. I mumbled thanks for the session, and stumbled out of the hall, and had to ease myself into my car, where I cried all the way home. Despite the pain, I was hooked.
I now realise that I did not have the tools to understand how to deal with pain, particularly when it is linked to emotion. My pain that day was physical (I'm pretty sure every roller skater has fallen on their coccyx at some point - it teaches you to BEND YOUR KNEES) but also emotional. I was embarrassed and ashamed as no-one else had fallen like me. I didn't know that everyone else had done the exact same fall - just not on that day.
Now, I know how normal falling is - particularly uncontrolled falls when you start out roller skating.
Now, I know how anxious you can be, over starting a new hobby that is meant to be joyful!
Now, I know exactly how we, as overachieving women, can gaslight ourselves with our less-than-compassionate self-talk.
Now, I know that to be human is to experience all emotions. They are called feelings because we feel them in our bodies.
That's why, we build in so much mental health awareness into our learn-to-roller skate program. It is vital that we challenge, unlearn and re-learn these feedback loops into positive ones that serve us. We should normalise giving ourselves permission for the smallest steps of achievement. I know how far from normal this is though, when only this week, I congratulated a young person for not giving up in their 30 minute roller disco session, they looked at me as though I was making a sarcastic remark.
Let's move away from the binary of good / bad. We are moving along a timeline of experience. We have more or less experience. That's all.
Meeting folks who find the courage to show up motivates me to do the same.
What will you do today that challenges your comfort zone?