This link leads to a short documentary which was filmed in April of 2012. The subject of the video is yours truly, Cat Cholera of the Paris Roller Girls, but before you watch it let me put it into context for you.
I'm posting this video now, months after it was filmed for two reasons: firstly I was only made aware that it had been released in August of this year, and secondly, I now see this video as a wonderful and precious souvenir of a time in my life that has passed.
I'm going to say something that would probably shock and dismay Cat Cholera from April 2012: I'm not playing roller derby at the moment and I'm OK with that.
In March of this year, I said "au revoir" to my league after a open house training session where I'd had more fun than I'd had for a long time.
Because that was the sad truth of it, derby wasn't really fun anymore.
I desperately needed new skates, but had no money to buy them. After rent and food, what little money I had every month went directly into train and plane tickets to overseas bouts. I resented the stressful hours I spent on the métro getting to and from training, after having already rushed from lesson to lesson all day as English teacher. Paris, which had at times kicked my ass was getting easier and easier as I hit my stride, and I wanted to explore the city that was opening up all around me. And most of all, while my team-mates were working harder and harder, getting professional and serious and dedicating even more time to improve their games, I knew I didn't have the emotional or practical resources to do the same myself.
I'd given myself almost completely to derby for years and it was time to take a break.
Relief overtook sadness as I took my skates off for the last time in I-didn't-know-how-long and after wallowing in my seemingly never-ending free time for a while, I finally took Papillion up on his offer to pull on the gloves at his boxing club and see if I liked it.
I liked it. A lot.
Boxing fulfilled my need for controlled physical aggression in the same way derby had, and the blindingly hard training sessions took me back to the early days when I could hardly stand on skates and was just starting to understand my body as the organic machine that it was.
My arms and legs trembled with fatigue, sweat dripped from my everything and the first punch to my face was as shocking as the first time I'd been booty blocked on the derby track.
But the best part was, boxing is not a team sport and no-one but me cared if I came to training or not. My presence did not affect the possible outcome of a future match. If I was too tired or had a better offer, I could just not go, and God knows nobody would want me to actually compete.
I also already had the mouthguard.
Months passed, and along with a change of job and the freedom it brought I began to find the stability that I'd been craving for so long. My spare time was utterly mine, to do with what I chose, and I choose to read books, box, write, make new friends and spend more time with old ones.
It's now been seven months since I skated on the track, and the truth is, although I do get pangs of nostaliga and sadness, miss the meditative elegance and freedom of skating and the girls in the league that became my family, I'm not ready to go back yet.
I too jealously protect my new lifestyle, and derby is not the kind of sport you can do half-heartedly. It demands and deserves all your passion, and I am also not the kind of girl who can give less than 100% once I'm committed.
So for now, I've hung up the boots.
But that's OK, because derby isn't going anywhere. Some of the best players I know are peaking now in their thirties and I know players in their late forties who are still holding their own and more against players literally half their age.
I never fell out of love with derby, or suffered some devastating physical setback that keeps me from the track. I still write about it, watch it, support it, promote it and love it, and know the rules better than ever as I translate texts discussing them into English for an online webzine. I just don't play it, because it doesn't quite fit my life right now. For these reasons, I'm sure that one day when the stars realign Cat Cholera will be back in action.
And for now, I can watch this video with affection and pride and feel lucky to have had the experience.
Long live roller derby.