From skates to scalpels, you can have it all.
Roller derby is a passion, it’s all consuming, a love for something that can destroy your body, and ignite the soul. Unfortunately, we don’t get paid to do it, if we did, let’s be honest, I’d happily accept minimum wage and live on ramen and carnage. When we’re on the track, we’re athletes: calculating, strategizing, sweating, bleeding, and just all around unleashing the awesome power of those derby muscles we spend so much time cultivating. What happened this morning at work, or whatever stress you have from 20 minutes ago, today, yesterday, or the last 10 years doesn’t matter, you’re just existing, breathing, adrenaline rushing, being a part of an entity greater than yourself – skating. But when that adrenaline rush wears off, and the bout is over, we all go back to this stressful thing called life. Or as I like to see it, life outside of derby.
That’s something a lot of people don’t realize, all of us have day jobs, we don’t just breathe, eat, and sleep derby, (as much as we’d like to). There are girls on our team that go to grad classes every day, run their own businesses, do real estate, raise children, crunch numbers, create beautiful artwork, work in the service industry, teach the youth of America, and just about anything else you can think of. But we do it, we go to practice at 9, get home by midnight, wake up at 6 and get to our jobs, and then do it all over again, because if you put the time in, derby will change you. It will make you a better person, and if you really love it, it will love you back.
So for all of you aspiring derby girls that are thinking about trying out in November, but don’t think you have the time. I thought I’d share a little of my story. It’s just one of many (many more interesting than mine), that comprise this great organization. But overall I just want people to know that you can do it. You can make it work. And if you want to, you can have it all.
I’m a medical student, in my third year of post college classes, which aren’t really classes anymore as much as it is slave labor (honestly). I have no control over my schedule. I’m asked to be at the hospital at all sorts of ridiculous hours. I work for way longer in one sitting than anyone whose job involves people dying should ever be expected to. I’m constantly under the supervision of people who are grading me, taking notes on me, and then will evaluate me, with the possibility of screwing me out of a good grade, and thus a possible residency program. Then, they expect me to go home and study so when they ask me complicated questions comprising of the entire medical base of knowledge all day at random, I wont’ look like an idiot and get marked down. And they don’t even pay me. It’s horribly stressful, but actually all in all, they say it’ll pay off someday, and I do love it (somehow.)
A day in my life goes a little something like this. (This was an actual Wednesday on my OBGYN rotation).
6am, get to work. Go through charts, see all my patients before my residents do so I can answer questions (read: get grilled) on said patients during rounds. Then I spent most of the day at work, reading, studying, looking up articles, finding patient chart information, and seeing patients. During that particular Wednesday I spent most of the day in a patient room while she was going through labor, I assisted in the baby delivering process, etc., etc. Got to see the miracle of life go down, while holding a woman’s leg in the air while she grunted her way through one of the most painful experiences possible. (I trivialize, but it was actually pretty beautiful). Help clean off the newborn, speak with my resident, help clean up the mother, hand the baby to mom, congratulations all around, much rejoicing and step out into our main room. I’m told as I open the door, that one of my other patients has just been whisked to the operating room for an emergent C-section. I run down the hall, throw on my little cap, mask. and booties over my scrubs, step in the OR where my residents are already prepping the patient, run to the scrub room, scrub myself down, get my gown/gloves on without contaminating myself (this is such a process, I wish I could provide a video), and then help with the surgery, and deliver baby number 2 for the day! (which I’m happy to say was very healthy) Then close up surgery, all of which takes at least 3 hours of standing in a hot room covered from head to foot with whatever synthetic material those gowns are made of….now I’m really curious. The rest of the day is pretty much more studying, patient care etc.
I get out of work at 7, (13 hour day, shorter than usual) and go straight home to change into derby stuff. I go street teaming for 2 hours or so, handing out flyers, putting up posters for our upcoming bout, and then hop in the car and head to derby. Then the fun part: Derby practice. Where I get to see my teammates, get out some of the stress I’ve been building up all day, and best of all: Play Derby. Derby gets out at 11; I spend a little extra time catching up with people, then head home and make it back by 11:40. Upon getting home I eat approximately 5,000 calories (okay, okay, maybe 600), and then shower, and go to bed.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Not all days are like that, unlike some of my luckier counterparts I can usually only make it to practice 2x/week, so many days I just come home and study, or sleep. It sounds stressful, and it can be, but more than that it’s fun. Derby is my release, my time away from all the doubts, thoughts, facts, and miniscule details I have to think about all day. It’s my time for me. It’s the only time I get to de-stress and just “be.” More than that, the women on my team are a huge support network. They’re easily the strongest, most multi-faceted people I’ve ever known, and without derby, I probably would never have had the privilege of knowing them. Being a part of the outfit is easily, easily, my favorite thing I have ever done. Even better than holding a ladies hand, and leg in the air while she pops out a kid (can you believe it?). My father (a physician) and I have had countless fights before this year about how I was going to continue derby and continue school, he said it couldn’t be done, “that’s not what being in medicine is about.” And honestly, a lot of people I know in medical school have made our profession their entire lives, it’s easy to do, being a medical student is breathtaking and all consuming too. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me “how do you do it?” But really, it hasn’t been that hard. I love roller derby, and I love my league. Roller derby has made me who I am, and gives me a strength I didn’t know I had. After a horrible defeating day at work, when I can’t seem to do anything right, I get to go to derby, lace up my skates, and be a part of a team that loves me, appreciates me, and whips me into shape. I feel like asking those other medical students, “how do you not do it!?”
This bout coming up in October marks the first time in my 2 seasons of skating that I wasn’t eligible for a bout because of school, and I don’t see it happening again next season more than once either. So if you’re thinking about joining, but worried you won’t have enough time…believe me, you do. And believe me, it’s worth it. I don’t care how tired you might be the next day, or how stressed you think you are, being a part of the outfit will pay you back 1,000 fold. Being a part of this organization, and this sport, hasn’t taken away from my life, it has enriched it in so many ways I never would have experienced without it.
So I don’t care what your profession is, follow your wildest dreams, go back to school, have a family, AND play roller derby. Because if you want to, you can have it all. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. I’m living proof.
Hero Shima, over and out.