It is a question many athletes ask themselves when they are faced with the decision of whether to get a real job or stay broke and try to keep racing. I have always tried to do both, until last year, when I mainly played.
Last spring I finally finished my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. It was a long hard process and I had tried to race seriously throughout. There were good races but more of the tired ones than I was really happy with (that could also have been due to the three surgeries I had while doing my Masters but that’s a different story!). As a reward to myself for completing this challenge, I decided to take last year basically off school and work and simply be a skier….no more “work”. I was going to “play” all year. Karl and I went out to Canmore to train and prepare for the World Cup trials. We planned to peak early and hopefully qualify. The amazing thing was, without the challenges of work, it worked! We both reached our goals of placing well enough in the qualifying races and Karl got to race in the World Cup. Unfortunately, due to my lack of the required FIS points, I had to watch from the sidelines, but the point is that I felt better in those races than I had in a long time. Following the World Cup and Christmas, we headed over to Europe and did a number of races there and “played” for 6 more weeks. We had a super time travelling and skiing in new places each week.
Skip forward to the spring…I have had a great year and I am totally broke (and in debt). I have two choices. The first choice is to try to scrape by and find enough work to pay the bills and keep racing as my first priority. The second choice is to find a real job and let racing take the backburner for a while.
Unfortunately, neither choice was to be a full time athlete. But I realized that this didn’t mean that I couldn’t still do some pretty serious racing and have some pretty serious fun while doing it. Members of XC Ottawa have all managed to find a balance between work and racing. Some work full time jobs and train full time too, some work less than full time hours at a real job, others have cut back their training hours and focus on specific races. If you want to make it work, usually you can.
So far, I have been lucky enough to find part time, relatively well paying, contracts doing research at the two local universities. So, in terms of the work or play choice it has wound up not really being a choice for me yet. In the end, it is not as clear as working or not working. It is a matter of finding a situation that you are happy with. It is hard to say what the future will hold for me, I am still looking for a job with a longer commitment than two months. When that job comes up, there will be more choices and more compromises.
Work or play? They say, all work and no play makes Megan a dull girl, however all play and no work makes Megan unable to eat. So, I say both!