May 9, 2013

My Family of Choice

Families of Choice are intimate social circles that are formed by people. The term, which is largely used by members of the GLBT community, was coined because they often experience discrimination or rejection by their own family (Family of Origin). The term and existence of these social circles, however, has become increasingly popular with younger generations who face their own family struggles or are simply looking to widen their circle with those that they relate well or spend the majority of their time with.

Although I have not  had a perfect life, my family of origin has generally been supportive  of me and most of my life decisions (you  can ask my mom about my bad life decisions and  she’ll readily share with you I’m sure). While I love my family of origin and share with them almost every facet of my life (admittedly sometimes too much), when the going gets rough I often turn to my family of choice.

In my life, I have been fortunate enough to have several families of choice, starting in college with the brothers in my fraternity (which was more dysfunctional than functional at times). Even though my undergraduate years in my fraternity were tumultuous, I am still very involved with my national fraternity as a volunteer and donor. I turn to my “brothers” for many things and relish the time we spend together at conventions and conferences.

Shortly after college I found my next family of choice as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT). You see, in EMS, you spend a lot of time together, both on and off the clock, and you develop relationships that stem much deeper than the profession. I spent 15 years in EMS as a volunteer, working my way up to Assistant Chief before letting my certifications lapse and officially “retiring” last year because, quite frankly, I was tired. I loved my EMS family and spent most of my free time with them on vacations, celebrating weddings, and just kvetching about life. They were my rock and I still keep in touch with many of them, even though many (including myself) have moved on to new places, gotten married and in some instances have (or are having) children.

When I moved to Colorado in July 2012, it was the first time in the last 17 years when I didn’t have a family of choice that I could readily turn to for support, love and just general good times. Then I discovered roller derby. To be fair, when I lived in North Carolina I watched derby on a semi-regular basis, but didn’t have the time to be an active participant.

Enter Suzy Muffin Crusher, my next door neighbor. One day over a casual conversation on our front porch while sporting my Appalachian Roller Girls beer koozie, we began discussing derby. I shared with her my interest, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to get involved. She kindly invited me to a FoCo Girls Gone Derby bout in September 2012 and I was hooked. I started volunteering/training a week later as an NSO (non-skating official) and shortly thereafter I began working on my skating skills with new skaters. Two weeks ago, after months of studying rules, participating in practices/scrimmages and countless falls, I officiated my first roller derby tournament at the Colorado Cup in Denver

I share this history because; although I love roller derby and work very hard to be a good official, roller derby is more than a sport. Sure it’s competitive, fun, noisy and filled with both outrageous personalities and costumes. At the end of each bout there is always a winner and loser, but in the end we’re all winners because we’ve chosen each other as our family.  FoCo Girls Gone Derby has given me the opportunity to create a new family of choice. I have been fortunate enough to meet skaters, officials and volunteers from all over the US and from around the world. The majority of people I am now closest to in my life and would turn to for help are my roller derby comrades, and vice versa.

So go out and find your “family of choice”, whatever that looks like for you, because when your life falls apart, like mine recently did, there’s never a shortage of companionship, love and support to help get you through. May each of you be as fortunate as I have with finding your own family of choice.

See you on the track…   

Whistle Blower

1 comment: