Skating Metamorphosis for Community and Self Care
Lessons abound in Krystal Roames' exuberant, transformational experiences with the new pandemic-era rollerskating community. She describes a sense of positivity that provides hope for an inclusive, welcoming, and compassionate future of rollerskating. Roames' thoughtful, multi-faceted voice is essential for anyone interested in rollerskating, community building, and intentional self-care.
KRYSTAL ROAMES is a social worker and therapist who supports people as they work through trauma, stress, and difficult circumstances. She skillfully balances this occupation by knowing when to slow down, take time for herself, and practice self-care - not only for her own sake but also to do her best for those around her.
Since the pandemic began, it has been more difficult than ever to build community, practice self-care, and ask for/receive help when you need it. Krystal is a calming voice in these dark times, stressing the necessity of simply doing what feels good and trying to figure out what is best for you right now.
I am incredibly grateful for her kindness in taking the time to speak with me over Zoom and touch my life with the positivity that she radiates even through a screen. Though the past year has made human connection and self-care difficult for many of us, Krystal showed me firsthand how rollerskating can be used as a unique tool for personal resilience, stress relief, and community building.
You started your skate Instagram account on July 21, 2020 (just 7 months ago). How long have you been skating? Did you skate at all when you were younger?
I was introduced to skating through ice skating because I used to watch it a lot with my grandma as a preteen. But it's hard to have access to ice skating, so someone in my family brought me a pair of rollerblades, and that's how I started skating. I was pretty active as a kid, rollerblading all the time. I did that for a long time, up until around high school when it kind of began to feel like a kid thing, not for adults. Then I just sort of stopped. So that was how I first started skating, and I recently started again in July.
Was there anything in particular that INSPIRED you to start roller skating again?
Like most other people, I saw Oumi Janta skating in her yellow outfit and she looked like she was having so much fun. But at that point, I still wasn't thinking it was something that I should get into. I think it was seeing Ana Coto's skate video to tap in. It’s just so cute, and it looks so fun. That’s when I thought, Ok, let me get a pair of skates, why not? And it took off from there.
I love your highlights of MONTHS 1-8 on your Instagram, it's so refreshing to see your own excitement in your progress. Do you feel that you have progressed?
When I get new things, it's still a surprise to me. It's really encouraging when you get things right, and you don’t always. I'm still working on certain things that are so frustrating for me, but if you keep going you see the minute progressions. That’s what keeps me going, and just having fun.
Even if I'm not progressing or doing something new, I really enjoy just putting on music and being in the zone. I think skating has definitely helped build my confidence in myself. If you keep trying, you can and will get there eventually. You can apply that to all kinds of different things.
In the past seven months, what would you consider the biggest challenge you've overcome with roller skating? And how did you do it?
I would say CRAZY LEGS. I still haven't overcome it. There are times, or clips, or moments where I really get it. And then I'll try it two minutes later and it's trash. (Laughs). But I just have to keep trying, and the thing is, even though it’s trash, it’s better than it was two weeks before that. It’s one of those moves where you have to balance, but also move, but in an awkward way.
And everyone does it in their own style, everyone does it differently. Like any skating move, people add their own thing to it. So I’m trying not to focus so much on getting it right, but rather getting it where I want it to be and where I’m comfortable with it. Really, everybody has a different version of perfect in their head. I'm trying to just enjoy the journey.
What do you love most about roller skating? What does it mean to you?
I love the variety. I'm a Gemini. I like doing different things all the time. I like the different people you get to meet, the different music that you hear, the different styles, different fashions, different flows. Everybody has a different flow, every single person. Everybody is inspiring in their own way with different moves; it's really cool to see.
It's such a great release. You can do it alone. You can do it with people. You don't have to be in a box within it.
Has rollerskating helped you find a new sense of community or change your relationship with where you live?
In my apartment building, people call me the roller skating woman. Even people I would probably never have spoken to before. And the community is amazing, everybody's really welcoming. I've been to several different skate events around New York City, and they've all been amazing with different skaters, different styles, different music. I've made friends through it.
I love what skating has brought into my life.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the whole outdoor pandemic rollerskating scene/experience?
It’s great! As long as it's done safely. When I first started skating, it was mainly by myself. I didn't know much about a community. But I started looking on Facebook and joined some beginner roller skater groups in my area and just in general. As you follow groups and skaters, you find out about other groups and communities. Club Butterroll, Rollerwave, Skate Aerobics, and Dreamland Roller Rink were the main events that I attended.
Club Butteroll was the first, and it was amazing. It was in a schoolyard with a basketball court, people were skating in a circle and the music was jamming. There was food, everybody had good vibes. I kept going as long as I felt safe. It felt like a party to me, and we can't really do parties right now. It was like an outdoor party but on skates.
Do you feel like rollerskating has helped people relax and find a release during this time?
Definitely. At these events there are skaters who have been skating for a while already, there are new skaters, and often rentals are offered for people who don't have their own skates. It has definitely brought out a lot more people to skating, including me because I wasn't really skating prior to the pandemic. I think a lot of people are watching these skating videos and seeing the release and the freedom that skating makes people feel. When I watch other people skating, I feel that freedom when someone is spinning, or twirling, or has a really nice flow. It's such a good feeling. I think all of us want to feel that in some way, and because we're so isolated and stuck inside right now, that feeling is unmatched.
Tell me a bit about fashion in the skate scene?
You need to be able to move. When I first started skating I was in jeans, and I learned quickly that's not really comfortable. Some people can do it, but I like sweatpants, colorful leggings, crop tops. But really, it's whatever makes you feel comfortable. Everybody wears different things. Some people paint their faces or put on a costume, and it's cool.
There’s no sense of "What is she doing?" You can just be yourself.
Having gone to events and experienced this whole NEW roller skating community, do you have any thoughts/comments on diversity and inclusion in this new era of social-media sensationalized skating?
It's important to continue to push forward, uplifting Black skaters, and skaters who are people of color because we don't have as big of a platform. It is really Black skaters who have maintained skating, even before the pandemic. It was a release, and still is a release for so many people. And skating for Black people is marginalized, rinks are closed. It's incredibly important to still put forth the effort and to continue to lift up Black voices.
It's a problem in all art forms. Black voices are always silenced. We're always marginalized. When we start something, it's often taken and changed into something else.
And then people say, oh my gosh, look at this. This is not something new. It's a continued fight, in all areas of our lives. But I’m hopeful that we can continue to build a positive and inclusive community through roller skating.
Do you have any rollerskating inspirations or up-and-coming skaters you’d like to point to?
When I first started skating, Skate All Dae was a big inspiration. She does really helpful tutorials for beginners. I also love watching Temptest Nicole. She does beautiful dips, and her style and flow are so amazing. Lily Skates a Lot, I love her IG and I also love how conscious she is, how she's always fighting to uplift Black voices. And her spins are amazing - I love love love her spins. Tot Lock n Drop It is another up-and-coming skater whose skating style is a real inspiration to me. She has amazing energy, and we're both Geminis.
Any words of advice to aspiring skaters?
Have fun with it. That's the most important thing to me, is to just have fun. When you feel yourself starting to get frustrated, do something else that you enjoy or something you do well to help boost your confidence. When I'm trying to do Crazy Legs and doing terribly I'll get pretty mad at myself, and then I think, no, go do something else, go spin for a while. You do that well and then come back to the other thing later or tomorrow.
Also, learn how to fall. Be comfortable with falling. Laugh at yourself, because you're going to fall and it's okay.
I would definitely recommend watching a video on safe falling.
Beyond rollerskating, can you tell me more about your work as a social worker and therapist? What inspired you to pursue that?
I initially thought, well, I like to help people and unfortunately, people need help all the time. So I just started doing it. I went to Temple University and majored in social work, and then I went to Hunter College to get my master's in social work. Most of my career has been in housing, so that's helping people who may have been formerly homeless, who have histories of substance use or mental illness. They're just like you, me, anybody else, but circumstances have led them to a place where they don't have enough money to afford a normal home. I think a lot of people are in that situation right now. Homes are expensive. Houses are expensive, even apartments are expensive.
I work primarily with studio apartments that people can lease. The team and I work to support the residents in whatever they need, whether that's helping with benefits, talking through daily problems, family issues, conflicts with neighbors. We help to connect people with resources in the community, transportation to medical or mental health appointments, referrals to substance use treatment programs, things like that.
So that's what I've been doing, basically, for the past almost 11 years, in housing social work. Part-time, I do therapy with people who may have had traumas in their past, and who want to talk about things like confidence, self-esteem, family or relationship issues, etc. There are many, many things that people want to talk about and explore.
I don't know if it's an American thing, I'd love your opinion, but it seems like there's such a stigma around needing help, being down on your luck, or down on your confidence. It's hard to ask for help.
It definitely is. It's interesting, the American outlook is to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, just figure it out, you can do it, and work, work work, to make the money. And that's really stressful for a lot of people.
It's not an easy life to live. People often don’t feel comfortable being themselves, because of this pressure that everything needs to be perfect, you need to have this, this, this, and this lined up. And if you don't, then you don't have it together. That's the message that a lot of people are receiving, to the point that it causes extreme stress.
What would you say are the parts of your work that inspire and fulfill you the most, versus the most difficult parts?
Especially in my work with housing, the difficult part is seeing just how limited the access and resources are for a lot of the people who I work with. Many people don't want to live in the kind of housing we have, they want their own apartment without the support, without needing the assistance. But, even for those who don't need support, the access isn't there, because everything is so expensive. There's no way to really live with Social Security or public assistance and have a one-bedroom apartment, and the frustration of being in that box is incredibly difficult. To compound that, it's not their fault. It's circumstances and traumas people have experienced in the past that have led them to the present.
But, I also get to help show people that this isn't the end, there are ways that you can try to move on. There are programs - very few programs - but there are programs that can assist and are trying to support people through these situations.
I would say the amazing part of my work is seeing people progress. Getting to see people gain more confidence in themselves. It's crazy, the progress that people experience as they recognize their own strengths.
I don't feel like I'm doing anything special, just talking it out and exploring things with them. But it’s often really important for people.
You are doing something special though, by listening and caring. I think sometimes just seeing people who care can be really encouraging that the world is a good place.
Thank you. (Smiles.) It's still a job though, you know what I mean? I don't want people to look at therapists or social workers like superhumans. We still have our own stuff too, but our role is to support and help people. And it's something that we want to do.
You have to want to do it, to do it well.
But, it’s important to remember that we have to ask for help too. Social workers are integral right now, and we're under a lot of stress. So many people need mental health support and just support in general in these difficult times. It's really important for everyone to focus on self-care, and making sure that you're taking care of yourself - for your own sake and so that you can help others.
How do you find balance and practice self-care?
Reading. Washing my face. I like skincare, there's something calming about it. And naps, I love taking naps.
We need rest. This culture of going all the time, or grinding all the time, it's not healthy.
Also, taking advantage of my vacation time. I think, especially for social workers, there is this pressure to be there all the time and to always be available. It's not always very supportive, the system of you taking care of yourself. In American society, there's this pressure, even when you're grieving or when you're going through things, to keep going and keep doing. I'm really trying to put my foot down on that kind of stuff this year. And skating, definitely skating. That's often where I find my relief.
Any last advice you'd like to give?
Do what makes you feel good. As long as you're not hurting someone else, or yourself, do what makes you feel good. If you want to skate as an adult, skate. Do what you want to do.
Krystal's Instagram is a chronicle of her skate journey starting from July 21st, 2020, with every post radiating joy. Her progress is unmatched, her skate-dancing fluid and lovely. Watching her clips, you can’t help but smile and make a mad dash to the nearest skate shop. Her feed serves as a guide and inspiration to all skaters, aspiring and accomplished.
Krystal's Therapist Overview Psychology Today
Krystal's Interview at WOW Women
Krystal's LMSW Profile: Therapy for Black Girls
Vogue Skating Feature
Resources and Additional Information
Fall Safely Instructional Video
Find Krystal's Rollerskate Butterflies at @thepeacegrenade
A few of Krystal's Local Rinks to Check Out!
*Krystal's Fav - Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Center
Additional Photo Credits:
Photos of Krystal and her rollerskates taken by Olga Shmaidenko, WOWwoman.com
Photos of Krystal skating at outdoor roller events taken by Timothy Guest Jr.
Photo of Krystal and @beau_terr_ful at @dreamlandroller 90s party
Alanna is an intern and writer at Withitgirl, she is attending UCSC and loves getting out and about in the great outdoors.
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