By Carol Cronin (Where Books meet Boats) A Rod Davis article in the latest Seahorse Magazine got me thinking: why is it that from the outside, mid-life passion looks like mid-life crisis?Rod recently bought an OK dinghy to get back to having fun on the water. As one of the top coaches in sailing, he spends most of his time watching other people sail. In a blog post on Sail-World, he said it was time "to sail and race for myself, you know, just because it's a super fun thing to do."
By Carol Cronin (Where Books meet Boats)
A Rod Davis article in the latest Seahorse Magazine got me thinking: why is it that from the outside, mid-life passion looks like mid-life crisis?
Rod recently bought an OK dinghy to get back to having fun on the water. As one of the top coaches in sailing, he spends most of his time watching other people sail. In a blog post on Sail-World, he said it was time “to sail and race for myself, you know, just because it’s a super fun thing to do.”
That sounds pretty normal to me, and it’s why I sail a Snipe. There’s little glory and nothing riding on our finishes: no funding, no pay upgrades or sponsorship deals. Just the simple pleasure of getting out on the water, competing with friends, and trying not to make the same mistakes over and over again.
Normal, maybe… and yet so rare. By the time we get to middle age, most of us have taken on so many responsibilities it’s hard to carve out any time for ourselves. And in our increasingly professional world, hobbies and passion are downplayed as a distraction, poo-pooed as lacking focus and grace and professionalism. Why would we devote so much time and effort to something that doesn’t bring any obvious benefit?
It may not be obvious, but the main benefit is psychological. Passion gets us out of bed in the morning, usually before the alarm. It balances our lives against an all-work-no-play mentality that usually burns us out. Physically, it keeps me working out, since dinghy sailing is a lot more fun when you’re in shape. And unlike many other pleasures (red wine, coffee, dessert) there’s no disagreement about the long-term benefits of fitness.
I have an Albert Einstein quote under my desk blotter that I pull out every so often: “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” Einstein was wise about more than just science.
In my eight years on the US Olympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council, I met athletes who were finished with their sport at age 25. They must have wondered how someone with so many gray hairs managed to hobble onto the Olympic stage recently enough to still be eligible as an athlete rep, but their stories made me feel lucky. My sport is a lifelong sport. The only challenge is finding a fleet that matches our goals as they change throughout our lives.
I’ve found a family of similiarly committed middle-aged sailors in the Snipe. It sounds like the OK dinghy is a good match for Rod’s fun meter. And I know plenty of others who sail the Laser locally, nationally, or internationally, combining challenges both physical and mental with the friends who understand why that’s so rewarding.
On the long drive to Florida to begin my winter season of racing, I’ll remember Rod’s closing thought: ” “I think we should save at least part of our lives to go with passion and enjoy the sport we all love… grass-roots style.”
This might be mid-life, but it ain’t no crisis.
Photo courtesy OK Dinghy class association