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On Quitting

My derby progress seems to be on the upswing again, and that’s pretty excellent. Last night, after having struggled mightily with the 50-Lap Killer ever since I came onto Fresh Meat, I held strong for longer than I ever had, up until my right shoelace came untied and I was forced to stop and re-tie it. I could’ve easily kept going, though, and that was a huge victory, both emotionally and physically.

Still, anyone who’s talked to me at all about derby in recent months will know that I’ve flip-flopped about quitting Fresh Meat on at least a semi-regular basis. In fact, I had an emotional moment just yesterday, where I damned near turned the car around and went home instead of going to practice. To say it’s been an up-and-down journey would be putting it mildly, and only recently have things started to level out to a point where I feel like I can even remotely deal with what’s on my plate.

What’s been more strange and emotionally confusing, over the past couple of weeks, is watching the Fresh Meat ranks waver and begin to thin out. A wave of the flu is making the rounds on the team, and the stress is clearly taking a toll on many of us. Status updates go by on Facebook after almost every practice, lamenting soreness, pain, and having had a “bad skate day.” It’s becoming rare to see a week go by without at least one person breaking down into tears after practice, due to the sheer frustration of it all. I haven’t cried yet, myself, but I’ve come very, very close.

Several Freshies have been parked on the bleachers during practice, as of late, because they’ve sustained minor injuries and need to take a few practices off. Some have stepped down entirely, because they’ve injured themselves badly enough to require a longer break from skating, or even surgery. Others have stepped down for their own undisclosed reasons, and it’s the ladies in that latter group that surprise me the most: some of them were skating well and never seemed to be struggling, but apparently, they were, on some level that wasn’t so easy to see on the surface.

Honestly, I feel pretty weird each time I look on the forum and see a post that reads, “_________ has stepped down from Fresh Meat.” I do find myself a little amazed that I’m still there, and I’m proud of myself for that, but it also feels strangely unjust to me. Why am I still flailing around on the squad, while other people with more talent and ability are leaving? Still, more than anything, I’m just incredibly sad for each of them, and curious about what turned out to be the final straw for them.

It’s times like this when the question of when to persist, and when to walk away weighs heavily on my mind. I’ve been turning it over in my head for weeks, with regard to my own commitments, and I wonder what motivates some of us to keep going, when others stop. We’ve all heard plenty of inspirational tales in our lives about people who’ve triumphed in the face of adversity, and it does take an incredible amount of grit and determination to do that. The harder lesson to learn, however–one that I’m still in the process of learning, myself–is how to know when it’s okay to quit, or even to take a step back.

There’s a balance between quitting too easily and pushing too hard, and it’s hard to find. It’s possible to give up too early, because you think you can’t overcome a problem, when it simply requires more effort than you originally expected. It’s also possible to push too hard, and break yourself emotionally with stress, or physically with injury. The unfortunate thing is, there’s no good way to tell someone which situation they’re in, or what battles are worth fighting, because each battle we fight is fought for different reasons and different benefits.

It’s hard to accept that something you truly want for yourself may not be what you need right now. It’s hard to accept that it may not be possible, within the framework of your life. It’s hard to make yourself stop training right now, so you can rebuild and come back stronger later. It’s hard to understand that a thing that’s been part of your life for years might be something you’ve grown out of. It’s hard to tell yourself that you may have taken on more than you, or any human being, can possibly manage. It’s hard to realize that something that used to make you happy isn’t making you so happy anymore. It’s hard to accept that quitting now does not mean quitting forever.

It’s a difficult call to make. If we’re lucky, we’ll eventually learn how to make the right one.

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