My dear former teammates and competitors,
In the five months since my departure from the full-time Nordie scene, I have been receiving boundless solicitations (some second-hand) for beta on what the “real world” is like. Perhaps it’s because we’re in an Olympic year, which comes with it a predictable and remorseful exodus from the sport, and you want to know what’s out there. Perhaps it’s because housing prices are rising and a full-time job is starting to look tasty. Or, maybe, you all just miss me and are wondering how I’m doing (guys!).
Either which way, I’m happy to oblige your curiosity. I know well that leaving skiing can be super scary, so I’ve jotted down a few sentences on the things that I was most concerned about while leaving the sport.
First, I’ll start with the timeline I made when I was thinking about what life might look like after skiing:
The timeline reflects the same inquiries I’ve received recently on the subject of jobs, relationships, fitness, food, and happiness. Here are my thoughts:
What’s it like to have a “real” job?
Dude, I have no idea. My experiences in skiing sent me straight into entrepreneurship which involves the same off-the-clock hustle that fundraising, training, planning and racing once did. Because of that, I experience a similar routine of high-highs, low-lows, self-doubt, and sense of success that skiing gave me.
I do work full-time, often over-time, likely on the weekends. There is a notable lack of downtime in my life compared to skiing, I watch far less Netflix, and really enjoy being able to pay my rent and insurance. It’s also important to note that although I am custom-cropping my own career, I still have to do a lot of work that I don’t want to do. There’s a lot of minutia, details, dealing with other people, and fucking boring shit that you have to do to maintain a job and get paid.
I do not, however, lack a sense of meaning. I still have goals, and mentors, and coaches and collaborators that are all working toward success alongside me. I make goal pyramids. I get to do passion projects. I am constantly learning, and adapting, and making new plans.
If you get anything from this section, please get this: you are overwhelmingly hirable. Not very many people have the whole put-your-head-down-and-crush-(efficiently) thing hammered into their bones. Don’t feel like your experience in skiing will spit you out on the other side unprepared. I worried about that more than I should have.
Are you still training?
Along the lines of the working overtime thing, staying fit has been quite hard for me. Contrary to my expectations, when left to my own devices, bounding intervals just don’t take priority. No, I am not training. Yes, I am exercising. I get out almost every day, am trying a lot of new sports (check the “athletic renaissance” section of my above timeline) and am finding that 10 years of VO2 max training actually makes for a solid off-the-couch fitness reserve.
Under this description, I am still more active than the vast majority of America. You probably will be, too.
What do you eat?
The amount of times I’ve been asked about my dietary habits post-skiing speaks to how ingrained (in good ways and bad) food is in the culture. The way I feel about my body deserves, and will receive, its own blog post. BUT, to concisely answer your undying inquiries :
I don’t take in as much volume as I used to, which has saved me a ton of money on food (money I now spend on wine). I still eat three square meals a day, usually once a week from my favorite local bar, and have learned from experience that people who don’t exercise five hours a day do in fact still need to eat. My decreased muscle mass and changing metabolism has made me more sensitive to caffeine, sugar, and alcohol and I now eat to fuel my brain equally to my body. I still think of food all the time, but less as utility, and more as an art.
It’s also still totally possible, albeit a little less likely, to experience hanger.
How do you make friends?
The thing about nordic skiing is that it automatically gives you 1000 friends who not only belong to the same cultish community as you, but also know every one of your results since you were a J3 (when we still used the terminology “J3”). It makes sense that folks would be concerned about entering a world that doesn’t particularly care about cross country skiing, doesn’t know the difference between L3 and L4, and has absolutely no concept of the JN’s dance.
Lucky for us, there are entire communities of batshit-crazy runners, bikers, climbers, skiers, and adventurers that share our general life philosophies of going hard and being outside. Don’t worry. You will find your people. They may not totally understand it, but they will respect what you have done.
Finally, Are you happy?
Happy with my decision? Yes. Happy all the time? No! I’m constantly switching between inspired, stressed, motivated, tired, overwhelmed, excited, bummed, and confident. Sound familiar?
I’m basically in my freshman year of life, where there are so many interests, people, careers, and activities to choose from. The only difference is, I don’t have the overarching structure of skiing from which to make those decisions.
Maybe things aren’t actually structured like I initially put them in my timeline. Maybe skiing didn’t, or will never, end for me, just like I’m realizing that I actually started my career years ago. For me, being happy is feeling stimulated. It’s always wanting to improve, make goals and learn. Perhaps the minor change in venue is just semantic. You gotta find the value in the rest of it (excuse me, my existentialism is showing).
Maybe the timeline should look more like this:
To conclude. Yes, a lot has changed. But, I still thrive on bouts of knowing all of the Nordie drama (yes, YOU). Also, my life still revolves around food, getting outside and working hard enough to pay for my life, which feels pretty much the same.
Also, it’s only been 5 months. So. Who knows.
P.S. For a more thought-out post like this one in print, keep an eye out for the winter issue of Cross Country Skier