When I first started, I thought that choosing my own nickname was awesome, and I really wanted to find a persona to go with my derby experience. However, I found I didn't need to do any of that to feel right when hitting opponents, so it never came to pass. I can summon up plenty of aggression, confidence, and I'ma-get-you-ness while riding the bus in the morning or getting a cupcake at the cupcake store. Playing derby hasn't really made me more aggressive at all. It's just made me ready to back up my natural aggression because I practice hitting people with my butt 2-3 nights a week.
Don't get me wrong, derby has changed me forever in more ways than I think I can fully understand right now because I'm so steeped in it. I'm more organized, that's for sure. I'm better at saying "no" to people who make rational arguments. I've learned how large social groups work in terms of changing procedures, rules, and commonly held activities and agreements (AKA "slow and steady wins the race"). I have more integrity. I listen to myself more and make decisions more quickly.
More than anything, I've learned how to take care of people who are having a hard time because I finally know how that feels. Before derby, most of my activities worked well with my natural skills, and I tended to have a fairly easy time because of those choices. Sure, I struggled, but deep down I knew I could do whatever it was because "I'm good at this stuff," and that helped me through the bad times.
Derby was different. I didn't know deep down that I could do this - in fact, I wasn't naturally good at any of this at all. I learned firsthand how it felt to be one of the worst people at [insert skill here] because I usually was. I learned how it felt to lose, fail, be passed over, and have to question whether or not I had it in me to succeed. This taught me more humility, strength, and tricks for positive thinking than I could have learned in a lifetime of doing what came easily. I'm living proof that we grow more through failure than through success, and that hard times build character.
Maybe my derby name isn't about who I become when I take the track. "Dreadnought" is pretty much the same as "Jessie" in that sense - aggressive, pushy, and prone to smashing into people. When I think of my derby name in terms of what I've become because of the track, "Dreadnought" is different than "Jessie." Dreadnought is tough - she knows she can do whatever this is because she's survived worse and become stronger because of it. Dreadnought is hard to push around because she's proud to take up her own space.
I liked Jessie, and I still do. I like what Dreadnought helped Jessie become, though. I wouldn't compare myself to the ugly duckling because I'm definitely no swan. Maybe I was like this little skinny rhino baby, and I'm more like the big, strong rhino mama now.
My favorite part is that I get to be this person wherever I go because I still don't see a difference between the two.