On Burnout, and Bye for Now

25.Apr.2017 by Heather Mooney

As long as I can remember making conscious decisions in my life, skiing has defined it. I loved it more than anything else, prioritized school and the rest of my life around it. It defined my friends, my high school and college choices. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten to make those choices in the first place, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until now, my biggest #firstworldproblem fear was burning out of skiing. I was scared that one day this thing that I felt so much a part of my character and my life, might not matter to me. And here I am, on paper “burnt out” of skiing. I ended my season in February, and don’t plan to start training for next season on May 1. As someone who used to live for race days, I now couldn’t bear the thought of bringing myself to another start line. The day after that last race in Ishpeming, I made it through one hour of our two-plus hour distance workout, and hated every minute of it, and hated myself for hating skiing on a beautiful day.

Somewhere in the years of training logs and excel sheets, a switch flipped. An infinite passion and excitement for all the details of the process gave way to an external force, driven by the numbers, results, the terms other people were operating on, not my own.  I lost touch with myself.  I didn’t know why I was doing it, and that became crippling. What used to be the thing I looked most forward to every day, training, was the one thing I couldn’t wait to have behind me. And as I slipped further and further, I looked farther and farther from outside of me to solve it. And as I struggled more and more, it only compounded itself, to the point where I don’t even know what the connection is anymore.

That’s really scary to me, not knowing. Yes, skiing is only a sport, but it’s the sport I’ve chosen to build so much of my life around. To think I’ve grown out of it, or don’t care about it any more, feels like I’m negating part of myself.  Maybe that’s part of growing up. Maybe I’ve changed. Maybe I haven’t.

I think skiing is still a part of me. But I have a lot of work to do to find where it begins, and why.  I hope it brings me back to being an elite racer, because that is what I’ve valued for so much of my life. But I have to give myself the opportunity to be okay with that not wanting to make the Olympics. That’s the only way I’ll be able to see where my heart wants to go with it. Then, when I see the why, whether it’s pursuing world cup starts, or graduate school, or designing trail maps I’ll be able to do it from my whole heart.  When I’m there, the hard things will be fun again.

In my parting, I’m immensely grateful to all off the Craftsbury community. To everyone who has shared an interesting conversation, supported me when I was down, pushed me in intervals, picked me up off the pavement (literally), offered a friendly smile, thank you. If there’s a place that’s an example of skiing mattering beyond our enjoyment of it, it’s here. I feel so lucky to have gotten to be a brief part of it. Thanks for making it so hard to leave.

Once a monkey always a monkey.