Friday, June 10, 2011

Life Lessons on Eight Wheels

Some women in roller derby will say that they have an alter-ego that comes out when they skate, that it's their chance to be someone else, someone completely different from who they normally are. I would argue the opposite - that I'm more ME when I play roller derby than when I do anything else.

What could possibly be more ME than my blood, my sweat, my tears? (And yes, I've shed all three of these due to roller derby. But mostly sweat.) My heartbreaks, my triumphs, my pain, my elation... are these all not the essence of me, of who I am? If you strip me down to my very basic elements, they are what you would see if you could see me at practice. No facades, no airs... roller derby has no room for BS, so more often than not, what you see is what you get.

You see, in my everyday life and especially my job, I have to play a role. Because I'm a teacher, my identity as "Ms. Ngo" never seems to take a backseat. What happens outside the classroom never seems to stay outside the classroom, so my job requires me to be a model citizen. No swearing, no controversy, and certainly no violating students' privacy by venting about them. (Recently I read about one teacher who lost her job because she vented about her students on her public blog, though she did not use names. I relate wholeheartedly to everything she said, but I disagreed with her forum for saying it.) I have to repress parts of who I am, hide what I like and what I AM like, and it all has to come out somehow.

Enter roller derby. This is where I can truly be ME. I don't have to be a perfect role model. I can grunt and sweat and smear my eyeliner. I can shout bad words and I can mess up and be human. I can feel pain (emotional or physical) and work through it, rather than putting on my "everything's fine!" face to get through the rest of my classes for the day.

I love my job, but sometimes I feel like it's sucking away parts of who I am because I have to hide them no matter where I go (including the internet). Roller derby is what brings them back again.