A friend of mine has discovered roller derby. I should clarify this statement: When I say “friend,” I mean “Facebook friend.” Which, as you might guess, means that this girl and I were acquaintances in another life (high school) and I would barely recognize her if we stood next to each other in line at the grocery store. So, I basically don’t know this girl from Eve.
But social media has offered me the odd experience of watching this stranger grow and blossom and find herself. She is a prolific status updater, and her changes of state are sometimes hilarious, sometimes biting, and sometimes gut-wrenching. We have incredibly different lives, but I have grown to like and admire her through this vast distance of time, geography, and ether. She is tough. She is smart. She wears her heart on her sleeve and her life hasn’t been an easy one from the sound of it. Over the past year, she has regained her footing, her confidence, and her happiness — through roller derby. What a joy it has been to watch.
What luck it would be if we could all find our own personal roller derby. That place where we click, where our pieces suddenly fit together and we are happy, successful, and supported. For a long time after college I struggled to find my personal roller derby. It was not easy for me. I went to Public Radio fund drive after fund drive to work the phones in hopes of meeting a new best friend. (Most people read that sentence and are not shocked that a 23-year-old volunteering at an NPR fund drive doesn’t have many friends, but it was obviously lost on me.) I read a lot of books in a lot of cafes and hoped that it would bring new people into my life. But it never really worked that way for me. Eventually, I was lucky enough to make friends and meet my husband, but it was much harder than I would have liked. I had to scrape them together from various bits and pieces of my life.
The first time in my life that I felt everything really click was becoming a mother. That was it for me. I remember one of my husband’s coworkers saying to me that he had seen me pushing my son in his stroller one day in the middle of an Iowa winter. He said that, despite the cold, I had a smile from ear to ear. It was true! I felt that I had finally found my place. I think that’s how life works. When you’re happy and things are as they should be for you, you can’t help but wear it on your sleeve. Or, in today’s world, wear it as your status.
For those of you who are close to vomiting, hold up. Real life does settle in. I am now a mother of two and have been doing this motherhood thing for a while. Some days are still triumphant and full of joy. Some days, I barely scrabble by. Frankly, some days, I let my kids sit slack-jawed in front of the TV for longer than I will admit right now so that I can regain my composure. But I still feel that this is right for me.
Everyone has their own struggle to find that spot. In the past, our paths were made for us. Feminism and the changes over the last 50 or so years have given us the gift of a myriad of choices in our lives. I am grateful for that gift — the irony that I found my spot being a stay-at-home mother is not lost on me. But I was able to search, have a career, and make my own choices. I am writing now and hoping to create a new career for myself. I am incredibly lucky to have found where I belong. I wish for all of you that you will be lucky enough to find your own personal roller derby.
Stephanie Olson is a mother of two boys who lives and writes in Seattle. She believes her golden rule in parenting, “Just wipe it off on your pants!” will be her epitaph someday.