How To Thrive With Very Little Income

A few years ago amid my couch surfing tradition every fall for training and early season races I ended up in a basement. I was generously offered lodging for two weeks (I stayed three) and even had free meals. Well… the fridge was always over full and they didn’t seem to be around much so I helped mitigate that problem.

When I moved into my new haunts I was surprised to learn I wasn’t the only dweller of the dark. My friend and fellow ski bum Warner Nickerson appeared out of one of the rooms and gave me a high-five because we had both scored on actual beds this time. Well mine was a murphy bed, but still a bed.

Warner had been there for two weeks by that point (originally scheduled for one) and along with his training he was composing an article for his column in Ski Racing Magazine dubbed Warners World. The topic of that months piece was on the challenges of the independent ski racer. Him and I conversed for a while about this subject as we were both mutually involved in it.

I remember asking Warner if he believed that his best days were in front of him, or behind him? He replied with a small chuckle and grin saying, “Oh I absolutely think my best days are in front of me. If I didn’t believe that, why would I still be doing this?”

I share that sentiment with Warner. If I thought that I was no longer growing as a competitor in professional ski racing I would have retired already.

Unfortunately last week I received the very disheartening news that my head sponsor of the past 5 years have decided to withdraw their backing for my upcoming season. I am unsure if it is a lack of faith in my future, or merely the synching of an ever increasingly tighter belt for support of professional ski racing but it is an especially tough blow to take as my ski company have also started to draw back their funding for me as well.

It is in these trying times that I question my involvement in ski racing and what I am precisely trying to accomplish. Many have counseled to “stay with it for as long as you can” while plenty of others have advised that I move on into the “real world”, while simultaneously telling me that the real world actually kind of sucks.

It comes down to this.

Every morning in the summer my alarm goes off. I wake up, hit the snooze button, and fall back asleep for another 10 minutes until it starts buzzing again. I repeat this cycle for about 1-2 hours before I have to roll out of bed and start my day job to help pay for my ski career. I paint houses which is easy work, if not incredibly monotonous. Honestly, when I am holding a paint brush I question my life choices almost daily. I am a man of passion and turns out I have little passion for painting houses.

Earlier this summer after slabbing enough paint onto siding to moderately cushion my bank account I decided to spend it all on some training at Mt. Hood. Each morning my alarm would be set for 5:30AM to catch the first lift at 6:30. I don’t think it ever actually went off though because like a kid on Christmas morning I would be up waiting to make those first few turns.

I think that is a very special thing in life. To wake up excited. It is easy to fall into the routine of what we must do to survive while ignoring our potential to thrive. It is easy to dream, but difficult to act on your idealistic view of the world.

To mold reality to our wishes might not always be easy. I imagine this winter I might have to spend a few extra nights sleeping in my car in lieu of hotel rooms. My PB&J consumption might sky rocket and my Slalom skiing will probably get more attention as my hobby of GS skiing takes a backseat.

But seldom are we met without adversity in life. Money may be a necessity to survive but dreams are the energy by which we live.

So I am going to keep setting my alarm and if the snooze button breaks with the overuse of me trying to forestall life, I will know that it is time for a change. But for now, I will rise, I will live, I will thrive. Car camping and all.


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