It's when the times get hard that you really begin to understand things. As many of you know, and a story for another time, I was a ski racer back in the day. Many people think this is very cool, and it very much is/was. I had loads of fun as a ski racer, as I would tell you any day. But for me, it didn't come without its struggles. Myriads of them, really. Back then, I pretty much did school, and skiing. School, and skiing. In the off-season, I did school and training. Being stuck between San Francisco and Park City, Utah was not an easy deal for a high schooler, either. I did not attend a single party the entire time that I was in high school, and there was time and time again that I found relationships falling apart because by definition, everything was long-distance with me (no one wants to be friends with the girl who won't hang out once the school bell rings). Aside from that, I absolutely sucked at skiing. I wanted very very badly to be good at this sport. Not just kind of or decent, but yearning so badly to be the best it hurt somedays. My (relative) mediocrity made it hard for me to fit into a community where social order was determined strictly on your "points" - that is, your ranking compared directly to the best skier in the US (or the world, if we get into FIS points) (s/he sets "0.0," and everyone else adds up from there).
When things got hard, there's one thing that kept me afloat. I used to think, not about that bad moment right then, not about the thing that was upsetting me or making me cry, but I would transport myself to think about this thing that mattered to me - skiing (I still do this when I get upset). Somehow, just thinking about this goal helped me focus, focus not on the things that were hard, but the thing I wanted to do. There were many times I found myself thinking about the sport, only to buck up and do whatever the hard thing was, or to get through a painful moment, whatever it was. After bad races (which were most of them), I would disappear onto the mountain while the other kids chatted in the parking lot or the lodge. Being driven, motivated, passionate was something that was comforting to me, because somehow everything felt OK, everything would be OK, as long as I kept trying. Giving up was just not an option to even be considered.
Things got off-track in college. I didn't really know why I was there, in a more personal context than "because that's just what you do." Although I managed to cut a deal with myself (such an unruly thing, one's id), I still felt vaguely confused. Things started getting better after a while, but it's only been till recently that things really started making sense.
Recently, when things start to go bad, or when I feel overwhelmed by despair (hey, it happens to all of us), or when I just want to give up and crawl back into bed and never come out again, I've begun to think about something new. Tonight, I realized that I can do this, that it can make me feel better, it can distract me away from anything and everything that chips away at my outlook. So I guess, despite being upset at the moment, I'm actually a little heartened. I no longer have a choice, folks. I need to do this. And I couldn't be happier that this feeling is back in my life. Many of you know what I am thinking about next, and I hope you'll support me in my journey forward (and if you don't, well, you can't get me down (for too long), anyways). Let this be, in my own weird way, a declaration of a new period in my life. I've never been more excited.
*I want to thank Andy Weissman for starting this realization for me, for seeing it before I did. Andy said to me a few weeks ago, "You have to do this, because you can't stop thinking about it." And he's right. It just took a month of repeating that phrase to myself to really believe it.
This post was originally published on my Tumblr.