Published in Lead Jammer, Five on Five magazine and USARS magazine
Secrets of an Over-Achieving Derby Girl
As an author, candy maker, wildlife gardener and derby skater with a full-time “real job,” here’s a question I frequently get: how do you do it all? The short answer is self-discipline. Snore. I know, boring as hell and not at all sexy or easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it. But you’re not everyone, you’re a derby girl and capable of anything.
However much of a drag it is, it is more than that. It is excellent character development and the sense of accomplishment you will earn is profoundly gratifying. Here’s a typical day: 5 am, my alarm goes off. 5:30 am, I actually get up. 5:45-6 hip hits on my heavy bag, 6-7 workout in home gym, 7:30-12:00 work, 12:00-1:00 eat and write, 1:00-5:00 work, 6:00-9:00 pm, errands, dinner, make candy, weed and water garden or go to derby practice, whichever night it is. Then to bed and up to do it all over again the next day.
I do not have two major complications that many derby girls have: university or kids. But those were choices you made and you can still work with those limitations.
If it’s University, try to schedule your classes around derby practices, bouts and events and if that’s not possible, school comes first. You may just have to miss an occasional derby practice, bout and/or event.
If it’s children, discipline them well and bring them to the rink with you. Or leave them with your spouse, partner, in-laws, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, chosen family or friends. It isn’t inconveniencing anyone for that little amount of time per week and you can rotate sitters and offer to reciprocate. Most people will be thrilled to know a derby girl and will want to support you. Also, I’m sure you’ve raised your kids to be utter charmers and everybody in your circle is constantly clamoring for time with them. It’s good for you to let go a little; it’s good for family (blood or chosen) to invest in children and it’s good for children to be socialized and to have a variety of experiences. Unlike a derby bout, it’s win/win/win.
If your obstacle is both college and kids, then may the derby goddess bless you.
Ok, so you’ve evaluated your life and you’re ready to get more out of every day. How do you begin? Focus. Become extremely focused on your goals, desires and intentions. Realize that self-discipline is a muscle that gets stronger with use. Understand that we each have the same twenty-four hours and it’s up to you what you have to show for it at the end of the day. Pretend there’s a fire-what would you save? Pretend you’re dying. What do you regret or want most or with what do you wish to have a second chance? Those are the answers to what matters most in your life. So now, eliminate everything extraneous from your life that isn’t absolutely required (peeing, death, job) or that doesn’t serve to further your goals (skating, sleep). When listening to that shitbag friend complain for the millionth time, do a cost/benefit analysis: what is this costing you v. what are the benefits? This will take some difficult self-examination because if there’s no benefit yet you keep engaging in whatever it is, then you are getting something out of it that you won’t admit to yourself (e.g. you enjoy feeling superior, you need to feel needed, you’re addicted to drama, you like being rescued, you have to be a martyr, you can’t function unless you’re a powerless victim, you love complaining) and all that is ok if you’re truthful with yourself, aware and clear on it and choose to keep that unchanged. Your life, your choice. So once you have all that sorted out and your goals set and the room in your life to implement them, then make every minute serve you. For instance, I skate seven miles to work as often as I can. This helps my strength, endurance, balance and skills as well as saving the environment a little and getting me to work simultaneously. I garden for my own pleasure but I have created a certified and organic wildlife habitat so my garden also feeds and shelters many species. I have to eat lunch every day, but I write while I’m doing it. I despise socializing in any form, but if it serves me for networking or PR, I suck it up and I’m there. And you don’t have to start big; my garden started with one herb in a pot. My candy company started with one Christmas batch of peanut brittle for my father. My writing started with one page a day. My skating started with one, slow, wobbly trip around the block.
The point is to move toward something and to eliminate all non-productive distractions that stop you. A writing teacher even went so far as to advise students to stop gardening and decorating our homes for the holidays because those things are giant energy and attention drains from our manuscripts.
Once you get into the habit of self-discipline and prioritized goals, the inertia of that will carry and support you. It’s easier to clean a clean house, which means it’s worth it to maintain a clean, orderly home by smaller daily efforts than it is to see-saw from the extremes of dirty and disorganized to clean and organized after lots of dread, procrastination and Herculean effort. Wouldn’t it be nicer to spend fifteen to twenty minutes a day keeping things clean consistently than wasting an entire weekend playing scullery maid, charwoman catch-up? The same is true of achieving goals. Take baby steps and take them now. Everyone is a beginner in the beginning.
Who am I to tell you all this? A very serious-minded borderline robot who walks this walk. It isn’t easy and maybe you’re not ready for it. That’s ok too. Just be aware that that is the case. This way of life is difficult but it works. So if you want the immense inner and eventually outer rewards, start examining your life. But if anything stops you, let it.