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  • Emily Echols

Skating Scared


Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

I carry too many things. That’s probably true of most people. We hold onto heavy things that we don’t need to, maybe even things that don’t belong to us, that weren’t ours to begin with.

There are all these things that happened a lifetime ago, that shouldn’t hurt or even sting anymore. They are things I should be over but I don’t seem to really get over anything. I carry everything. All the time.


I took a scary hit at derby practice last week. My knee started to bend the wrong direction. My brain does this terrible thing if I have a close call, my brain completes the disaster and plays it for me in Technicolor. If I swerve my car, even if I correct it immediately, my brain has me smashing into on-coming traffic. If my knee gets hit from behind and starts to go the wrong direction, my brain snaps my leg in half. It’s hard to skate when you’re worried about your leg snapping in half. I tried to keep playing but I was shaking, so I sat out the rest of practice.


After practice, a teammate came over to talk to me. She broke her ankle playing derby and said sometimes she’s still scared. She said to take baby steps and that I didn’t have to scrimmage that weekend if I didn’t want to. I could still come to practice and not hit. I was freaked out enough that my initial thought was, “I have to quit derby.”


But oh, Derby is already more than a sport, right? Derby has been giving me permission to be brave, to try new things, to put myself out there. Because of derby I’m writing more. Because of derby, I’m sending a query letter to a literary agent for a critique. Because of derby, I feel brave. So what happens if I quit because I’m scared? What happens now? Can I still be brave?


But if I quit derby I wouldn’t have to try anymore. I wouldn’t have to work. I wouldn’t have to learn and grow. I wouldn’t have to worry that I wasn’t progressing quickly enough or compare myself to my teammates. If I wasn’t playing roller derby, I wouldn’t have to do anything hard. And I felt a tiny sliver of relief.


That was when I realized I carry too many things—everything, really. I carry everything that ever happened to me like it was yesterday. It may be an asset for a writer but sometimes it makes it very hard to be a person. The idea of quitting derby made me think of when I decided to stop playing lacrosse in college.


I played lacrosse my first two years of college. I studied abroad my junior year and assumed I would play senior year. I went to every single practice those first two years. In the spring, we practiced four days a week and had games every weekend. If I played lacrosse, I couldn’t participate in other clubs. It took up a huge chunk of my time.


I was on a traveling team once. We drove seven hours to Lubbock, spent twelve hours there, and drove seven hours back. I stood on the sidelines and watched my teammates play. I thought of all the other things I could have done that weekend that didn’t involve driving for fourteen hours or staying in a HoJo.


I quit because I didn’t feel good enough. All my friends were starters and here I was driving all the way to Lubbock just in case someone needed a sub because they were bleeding and no one was bleeding. I quit because I was embarrassed. I still played like a high schooler and I didn’t know how to play at the college level. I was at every single practice and I could never figure out how to play like my friends. So I quit.


Something I had loved wasn’t fun anymore. It made me feel sad and unworthy. I dressed it up as wanting to spend time doing other things but that’s why I quit. Because I thought I sucked.


Skating’s not fun if you’re scared. But I’m not going to let being scared be my excuse to quit because I really feel unworthy. Because I think I suck. I don’t want that to be one of the things I carry with me forever.


I played in the scrimmage on Saturday. I wasn’t an MVP but I didn’t suck.

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