The blogging hiatus did not last as long as I thought it might, at least not when I look at the calendar. When I think absentmindedly about how long I’ve been under the mental strain that led me to the hiatus, it feels like a longer time though.
Writing blog posts serves several purposes for me: to deliver information to my network of friends, family, and other followers, to chronicle my journey as a developing athlete as I weave my way through the ski world, to offer insight and reflection on my experiences that may help or interest others, and to keep myself honest.
This post is about being honest, and hopefully I can do that without being overwhelming…
As some of you may recall, in the spring I described myself as being in “a novel state of unfocussedness,” and expressed a degree of (optimistic) uncertainty. Since then I’ve continued to grapple with the same notion of unfocussedness as it morphed into a lack of motivation, loss of direction, cutting self-doubt, self-alienation, constant numbness, a minor identity crisis, and an appetite for several buckets of ice cream.
You see, it’s not easy being yourself, and it’s harder to try and be someone you’re not. Last winter, I was trying to be a racer. I was trying to be a racer because, when I broke my leg and had to watch opportunities I should’ve had pass me by, all I wanted was a chance to prove that I could race like everyone else was doing and that I was better than broken on the side of the trail.
That kind of motivation did me well, I think it was the best thing I had going for me last winter. I have never been that motivated in my life! Under no normal circumstances do I foresee myself doing 10hr erg + 4hr upper body strength weeks of training for the better part of a month ever again. It’s just unreasonable. I was unreasonable. And it was also unreasonable to assume that the motivation that catalyzed from my injury and quest for redemption would continue once the comeback was done and the season dusted.
I recognized that the drive and excitement of my season would wear off; what I didn’t realize was how quickly it would fall away and how I would be left – despite all the pats on the back and hugs at the finish, collection of medals and titles, praise and promise for the future… feeling like there was no where or way to go, that it was all over.
And that is where my struggle has been. I talked to a few people about this: my boyfriend, some psychologists, and my coach, but it took a lot of thought to decide whether I wanted to include this difficult chapter in my public journal or not. The decision ultimately came to be a yes (congratulations if you’d already figured), for all of the “purposes” I cited at the start of this post. I think there is a time and place to be open about things like feelings and deeper thoughts, and the timing of this post comes with what I feel is a recovery from my motivation death spiral.
Where the value lies in what I have experienced over the past few months is not in “getting back to my normal self” but in what I have learned while trying to get back. I attribute most of what I’ve learned to self-reflection and careful consideration of conversations and discussions with my coach – Timo Puiras, and my brother – Ryan, and to a quote about being an athlete.
Ultimately, I’ve decided to stop trying to be a racer. Earlier in the post, I said that last winter I was motivated to be a racer, to make my comeback and race better than ever before. The problem with trying to be a racer was that I’m not a racer; I’m a skier. And like I said – it’s not easy being yourself, and it’s harder to try and be someone you’re not. So when the racing ended, so did the drive to be a racer. Which then led to the subsequent struggle to find motivation to be that racer that had such a great season and was better than ever before, rather than to go back to being myself – being a skier.
So at least for now, until I need to race, I’m just going to ski. It’s not going to be about getting those World Cup starts, hitting that NorAm podium, earning that carding slot, or making the National Team; it’s going to be about getting better at skiing. It’s going to be about finding a balance between doing what makes me a better skier, and what makes me a happy person. It’s going to be about character, about being my own person and being better than I was yesterday. I can decide if I want to be a racer or a skier when I get closer to the start line.
This isn’t my farewell to ski racing, it’s an evaluation of priorities. I do hope to be a racer again when the winter rolls around, I do a lot better in races when I’m a racer and not a skier. And doing well makes racing more fun. I’m also having a very productive training season, which bodes well for racing fast.
ahem. I suppose that’s enough rambling, I think I’ve conveyed my point (if there was a point). I hope that this hot and fresh honest delivery
Delissio wasn’t overwhelming, and that hopefully I don’t come to regret sharing this. I doubt I will, although I’ll probably reread this in a year or two and chuckle at my naivety… On the whole, I think there is more to be gained from being open (at the right time, place, and in the right way) than forever shrouding secrets and hiding demons. If there is a greater takeaway from this, I’d boil it down to knowing that the tough times will pass, that they’re not going to last forever. In all likelihood, you’ll be able to get back to where you were before or even someplace better.
I’ll leave off with the quote I mentioned, it’s from the book “Faster” by Michael Hutchinson.
“Motivation isn’t even the right word – serious athletes can still train, eat and live right when their motivation is rock bottom. There is a more basic level of commitment to what they do. It’s not always easy to articulate how that commitment works. It’s even harder for people who suffer from it.”