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  • Emily Echols

Breaking Out of My Box


We moved to South Korea two months ago. Every time we told the Army we were willing to go OCONUS (outside the continental US) we really meant Hawaii, Alaska, or Europe. We forgot about all the other places they could send you so at first it was a shock. We’re loving Korea so far. I am trying so many new things partly because it's a great adventure and partly because eventually I have to drive in town. Even things on post that seem like they should be almost the same, like shopping at the commissary, are just different enough to remind me that I live in a different country now.


I've felt a shift in myself since we've been here. Maybe living in Korea is so far out of my comfort zone that I’m not bothering to return to my little bubble. It’s not as much of a stretch to new things if I’m already halfway there. Last month I saw an ad for a roller derby fresh meat session that teaches new people the basics of roller derby. I decided to go and see if I was the kind of person who skated roller derby. Apparently I was already the kind of person who moved to Korea. Who knows what else I am.


Practice is Sunday morning after church. The first week of the fresh meat practices I realized I didn’t have time to go home, change clothes, and drive over to the gym. Showing up late gives me anxiety. Instead of being twenty minutes late, I decided I wasn’t the kind of person who skates roller derby. A few weeks later I met the coach of the fresh meat sessions at an FRG event. She said, “I’ll see you Sunday,” in her Army officer voice. That week I brought my change of clothes to church and my husband dropped me off.


Since I’d missed two weeks of the fresh meat sessions I was the gooberiest skater out there. I’m still working on staying upright when nearly everyone else has at least passed the first skills test. I’m slow enough and in the way enough that I feel like I need to apologize to everyone for being there. Maybe this isn’t for me. I’m not good at being bad at something. I’m not good at starting, being a beginner.


I spent a very large chunk of my life feeling like I had to do something I never wanted to do and wasn’t very good at. After leaving that, I sort of decided I didn’t have to do anything that was hard or challenging. It was like I’d used up all the Try I had. I didn't have any effort left to give to anything else. Oh, this is kind of hard? I guess it’s not for me. I toiled so hard trying to make something work that just didn’t and I was terrified of doing it again, trapping myself that way. Since then, I’ve been living in this safe, little box where I only do Emily things. I only do the things I know I already like, the things I know I’m already good at.


Recently, I planned to go to a PWOC Korean cooking demonstration. That fell through and it turned into people going out to dinner. I replied to the email saying that due to the change I couldn’t go. I was still available but going to dinner with a bunch of strangers didn’t sound fun to me. Why would I do that? That’s the box I live in and it’s starting to suck.


So last night I went to derby practice even though Thursday practices are really more for the experienced players who can practice the contact moves. It was pouring rain and I had a hard time finding the different gym. I almost went back home until I saw other people with derby gear running in the rain towards the gym. I went because one of the players had encouraged me to go. Because I need so much stinking encouragement that it’s exhausting sometimes. I need people to hold my hand and cheer me on like I’m a potty training toddler. It’s so hard to make myself do things, especially new things.


During practice we skated a pace line. You skate in a line and the last person sprints up to the front. Sometimes the last person weaves in and out of the line or skates figure eights around the people in line. They put the slowest skater, me, up front. It was so slow it was painful. People kept having to break. It took me a full lap to get up to the front and more cheering than I’d like to admit. But I did it. I haven’t given up yet. I mean, I ordered skates so I guess I’m doing this.


Last night we were introducing ourselves. When they got to me I said, “Emily.” I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to come up with a derby name (with a lot of help from Facebook). I came up with Elinor Bashgood but it’s like all my obscure Halloween costumes that no one ever got when I was a kid. What second grader dresses up as Carmen Miranda? Elinor Dashwood isn’t even the most recognizable Jane Austen character. The one person I had told my derby name to the previous practice looked at me and said, “No, you’re Bash.” I said, “But it’s weird and requires too much explanation.” Someone else said, “That’s the point of derby names.”


So I’m Bash. Luckily, Bash, unlike Emily, isn’t afraid of doing hard things.

Bash gets back up when she falls.

And she keeps skating.

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