|Photo courtesy of Chuck Fong.|
I first heard about roller derby when I was in middle school. I don’t even remember how; I think there was a show or a documentary on TV about it. I didn’t see the program, but I saw snippets of footage in a commercial one day, and it looked amazing. It became the background dream in my head. Where some people have unrealistic visions of being a college football star whenever they watch their team play on Saturday—even if they’ve never actually played before and are well out of school, or starring in a Hollywood blockbuster—even though they’ve never stepped foot on a stage or in front of a camera, dreams that they know will never actually come true, I daydreamed about life on the track. Because I couldn’t skate. I didn’t even know the rules. I didn’t know anyone who did it. It just never crossed my mind that it would ever be something I could do. When Whip It came out, some of my friends went to see it and I refused to go. I felt bitter. I didn’t want to watch someone, even if that someone was a fictional character, get to start doing something that I couldn’t do...
I came to State College for a relationship I was in. When that didn’t work out, I stayed for my job. I hardly knew anyone. I worked two jobs: one to support the advancement of my career and one to help me pay bills since the first job was only part time. I worked—that was pretty much all I did.
As a result, I hated the town. I wanted to get my time in at work so I could move on to bigger and better things as quickly as possible. But I was starting to feel like I wasn’t going to make it. So many times I contemplated quitting: taking a job at a smaller company in Baltimore and moving in with my old college roommate, going back to Boston to live with my mom and go back to school, or taking off for Chicago, Atlanta, or Orlando and working any meaningless dead-end job I could find just to afford rent and be anywhere else.
In August, a coworker was having a conversation about going to an open skate with a friend of hers from her other job, saying her coworker played roller derby. As soon as I got back to my desk I sent her a message asking about the team: “Roller derby? Here? Do they have tryouts? What do I need to do? How long do I have to learn?” I had to do something before I lost my mind.