Thursday, March 22, 2012

Embrace the Fear, and Apply it to Everything.

Welp – I completed my minimum skills testing and I think I passed everything, although my blocking & hitting prowess is still in need of some serious attention.  Managed to do the 25 laps in under 5 minutes, which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do with so many people watching me.  My heart went all aflutter as I stood on the track waiting for the whistle to blow, and I thought, great – there goes half my energy because I’m nervous.  I think it helped when Warbaby just looked me in the eye and said “Repeat after me:  I’ve f***ing got this.”  So I repeated it back to her with venom under my breath, and proceeded to pump out those laps.  I made it with 2 seconds to spare.

Of course, almost immediately after the minimum skills test, I came down with a cold, and I’ve been sick all week, trying to stay home and get well rather than “skate it off”.  There’s some nasty crud that’s been going around for months now, and people are ending up with pneumonia and bronchitis, so I haven’t skated for 5 days.  I’m not looking forward to how out of shape I’m going to look and feel at practice this weekend…

In the meantime, while I’ve been home long enough to actually think about stuff, I’ve also had time for a few revelations.  About derby, about life, and about how I can relate one to the other, and improve on both.

Lemme ‘splain.  During scrimmages, I’m still very afraid to fall and get caught in a pileup.  In fact every time I turn my head to look over my left shoulder during a jam, I’m reminded by the slight pain of residual derby whiplash (from that face-plant several weeks ago) that I can still potentially hurt myself.  Stupid brain – always trying to preserve the body.  It’s annoying.

However, what I’ve realized is this:  When I decide I’m not going to fall, confound it, I do not fall.  I’ve been surprised at how extremely well I do not fall, in scrimmages especially.  It can get downright hairy out there – people on both teams falling all around you, in front of you, and slamming into you as they tumble to the ground, but somehow I can manage to avoid all of it and stay upright.  During practice drills, I seem to have “trouble” doing certain things, like juking (stepping around people and sprinting away) and counter-blocking (keeping your balance when someone else hits you).  But get me in a scrimmage where the potential to end up with an entire skate up my nose suddenly increases by a factor of Ridiculous, and I suddenly find myself side-stepping people, hopping over arms & legs, and anticipating a pileup before it even happens – so that I can avoid it.  All of this sudden and newfound “skill” is solely based on Fear, mind you, but that Fear is exactly what fuels my determination not to fall.  And God help me – it works.

If I were a Cenobyte, they'd embed a roller skate in my face and make all
the other Cenobytes fall on top of me.  Over and Over.  All. The Time.
If I could apply the same determination not to fall to being hell-bent on not letting the other team’s jammer through, I might very well suddenly become The Blocker From Hell.  But because self-preservation isn’t necessarily a factor in keeping that jammer back, my old geeky unathletic self just lets it slide (think “Daria,” when the volleyball just bounces past her).  Apparently, this Fear Factor that brings out the dormant skills in me only rears its pretty head when I’m looking out for my own rump.  So that’s my new mental drill for the next few weeks:  Embrace the Fear, and Apply it to Everything.

Being stuck at home long enough to think about things like this has also allowed me plenty of time to start wallowing in my own self-pity again – regarding my job, my hasty return from New York, and my life in general.  Derby has been a great distraction from all that, but it was kind of good to be able to step back and see some parallels in how I skate a scrimmage vs. how I skate through life.

When I took off to NYC last summer, the Plan was to stay there a minimum of 6 months – doing internships, applying for jobs, looking for Production Assistant work, and generally getting myself established in the business any way I could.  Instead, after only having spent a month there, things were beginning to not go exactly as planned, so I sort of calmly panicked and bought myself a plane ticket home, thinking that if nothing major was going to happen by the end of August (a total of 3 months), nothing would, and I should just come home and continue to apply for jobs long-distance, where it wasn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg to stay in Manhattan in order to continue to work for free.  Seemed perfectly logical at the time…

What an idiot.

Had I stayed there for the full six months, I might very likely have landed YET ANOTHER amazing internship - this time with the Upright Citizens Brigade.  They contacted me on August 31 - the very day my plane was scheduled to return me to Flagstaff – wanting to interview me for their Production internship, even stating that they thought I had a “stellar resume”.  Alas, I’d already canceled my reservations at the place I was staying, and I’d even shipped half my junk back home so that I wouldn’t have to lug it all on the plane.  And the place where I was staying was now fully booked for the next 3 months, so couldn’t have simply extended my stay.  So I went home.

Had I not canceled my room reservations and bought that plane ticket home, I also could have continued to work with my current and awesome internship peeps at the Queens World Film Festival, and maybe even had a chance to actually be there during the Festival itself to celebrate with everyone and reap the rewards of my continued contributions.  Plus, I could’ve met Lloyd Kaufman (cult film director extraordinaire and owner of Troma Entertainment, a company I was dying to get into when I happened to see one of their job postings over the summer).  Kaufman was honored at the QWFF on opening night, and I could’ve been there to meet him.  It really is all about who you know that gets you into the biz, and what you know that keeps you there.  I could’ve known freaking Lloyd Kaufman.  Himself.

Work for this guy?  Yes, please.

OK, back to derby; it may seem like I’ve digressed far & away from the whole point of this blog, but there is, most definitely, a connection.  My premature return from NYC was based on the same kind of insecurity, self-doubt, and inexperience that I feel when a jammer comes barreling up to our pack, and that's exactly why she manages to get past me.  Had I decided once and for all that I ought to Fear the possibility of failure in NYC, I simply would not have let myself fall.  People always talk about how “fear of failure” can stifle you and keep you from moving forward.  I think being in roller derby has revealed that I know how to turn that entire concept on its ear, and use Fear itself to succeed.  So from now on, I’m going to try to embrace that fear, and let it continue to save me from a fall.  ANY kind of fall – on the track, or off.