June 23rd, 2014
I’ve been dreading this post for a little while now. Putting things on paper, or in this case the form of a blog post, always makes them seem much more concrete and real. I can’t quite figure out how to put it in a way that seems less harsh, but here it goes: I’m finished with competitive XC-ski racing. For some this may not be a shock as I made the decision a little while ago, but it has taken time to really sink in. Before you come to any conclusions, however, let me back track some and explain the entire situation. This is not your standard “retirement”. I’m not a 10 yr USST vet that’s realizing my time is up–just a pretty conflicted 17 yr old trying to figure out where I’m headed. And so, the story begins.
My path to this point started during the college process. Choosing what college to attend is a big one. Although no college will guarantee success any more than the next, each college will have a unique impact on the rest of your life. Ever since I started to really ski, all I could imagine when it came to my future and college specifically was skiing. I spent so much time doing it that I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without it or what I would do. This all changed during my year at Burke Mtn. Academy. I had a really rough season and it kind of hit me that skiing won’t always be there for you. It’s a heartbreaker. No matter how much you train and how much you care, sometimes things just don’t fall into place. Even with this realization, though, at the beginning of the college process I knew I was going to ski. Maybe I didn’t want to put skiing over academics anymore, but I would go to a school with a ski team. Both my brother and my sister are at Middlebury and my oldest brother, Willie, was planning on going. Naturally it was pretty high on my list of schools I was interested in. As time went on, however, it started to occur to me that maybe the traditional liberal-arts skiing schools weren’t really the schools I wanted to be at. They are perfect for a lot of people I know, including my siblings, but there was a little inkling that maybe it just wasn’t for me. During this same time period my interest in politics was increasing. It was an interest that I really got into during my rough season last year when I ended up with a lot of spare time. For this reason, I had considered Georgetown, but wasn’t a huge fan of what I heard/saw and so I went back to looking at ski schools. Later on I heard about another DC school, though. George Washington. I looked at it some and heard great things, but still wasn’t sure how I felt about going to a non-skiing school. My season was turning out to be better than I originally expected and I was pretty excited about skiing. Come application time I decided I’d apply to GW, but to a specific political communications program that I doubted I’d be admitted to. I finished my season and was really happy with how it had gone, but as you could probably guess by the nature of story telling, I had also been admitted to GW’s political communications program. It was an unbeatable situation- studying political communications in the heart of DC (literally 3 blocks from the White House). I started to really think about it. This was an opportunity for me to take a leap of faith and study something that I was really interested. After a lot of thought and a lot of discussion I concluded that this was something I couldn’t pass up. I chose to attend and leave skiing behind.
That might have been too long of a description for you to really care much about, but this next part is the part that is really important to me. Since making the decision, I’ve realized some more things that make me feel better about my decision. The #1 thing I think that every skier should know is that you should follow your interests, and not just skiing. This may have been unique to me and no one else has felt this way, but I had spent so much time skiing and ski training that I really hadn’t done anything else. Even before I ended my career, when I was having fun doing other things I did better in my races. By the end of this year this year I was having my best races, yet I was doing so many other things at the same time. Before then, I didn’t know what else I could even do. You don’t have to leave skiing to pursue interests either. For me, I just realized that I hadn’t learned to do something new and had the feeling of beginner’s frustration basically since I started to ski–so sometime in Kindergarten-2nd grade. I wanted to feel that again and since stopping training I feel liberated. I’ve taken up and learned to do/play things ranging from skateboarding to polo. Skateboarding may well be a short lived career (I’m still pending my first injury which will likely be the end), but on the other hand I joined the college Polo team. I’ve been working as a greenskeeper at a local golf course and as a host at a different country club. I’m seeing and experiencing things I was so removed from in the past. During college orientation a couple of weeks ago I was blown away by the number of clubs available. In addition to joining the Polo team I also joined Coast Guard Auxiliary. I still want to find some kind of sport, but the moral of the story is that there is so much else to do out there. This obviously isn’t applicable to everybody and a lot of people will still find a lot of joy and fulfillment in skiing for a long time to come, but recognize that it won’t always be there and if you are serious you’ll learn to thrive in those times. I’d heard coaches and older skiers say this so many times, but for me it just now sunk in. I hope to someday be able to give back to the skiing community that has given me so much. I’m planning on watching as many carnivals as possible and racing against as many master blasters as I can find (not hard to find), but I also hope that I’ll be pretty busy in DC. Skiing will never truly leave me–Johnnyklister does have archives you can look through–and my classmates must agree since even though I had already quit, I was the lucky recipient of the senior superlative “olympic bound”…maybe as a spectator I guess. I must say though, after leaving skiing I got an invitation to REG which was pretty close to reversing my decision. I’ve been waiting to be able to go to that camp for a while now, but I was able to turn that down so I decided that I would probably be able to do a fasterskier post without fear I would back out on leaving.
As for this blog it’s up to Topher I guess. If it doesn’t get deleted I’ll probably post a photo of me rollerskiing up capitol hill every once in a while, or the results of my latest domination of every 60+ yr old in the Jackson area over Xmas break. I know I won’t be able to rival @Justin Freeman’s blog, but a boy can dream, can’t he?
It’s really bittersweet to be finishing up this post, also a little scary thinking that this probably isn’t monumental at all to anyone else on fasterskier than me or my parents. I just want to thank everyone in the ski world for everything you have given me. It has be an unbelievable community to be a part of and I’ll hopefully be around here in the future. A final thanks to Topher for thinking a blog written by a J2 would be worthwhile. It’s been really fun putting my experiences in words and I hope that others enjoyed it as much as I did. Sorry for not putting any photos on this one, must’ve been a rough read.