Believe it or not, my passion for cross-country skiing has been relatively short and recent. I didn’t actually start cross-country skiing until the winter of 2014-15, which was the last of many consecutive drought winters at Lake Tahoe. And because we were still experiencing drought conditions that season, I only skied about a dozen times. But that was enough to pique my interest and inspire me to further explore cross-country skiing.
You see, I had snowboarded during my first five or six winters living at Lake Tahoe. But by the time the drought hit, I had given up on snowsports other than occasionally going out on snowshoes. As much as I loved winter, I was no longer interested in dealing with crowds and lift lines. That type of mass appeal experience has never, well, appealed to me. At the time, though, snowboarding and being a part of the resort scene seemed the obvious way in which to embrace the mountain culture to which I was relatively new.
Fast forward to this winter, which is my ninth season as a cross-country skier, and it should be obvious that I’ve committed whole-heartedly to this cross-country ski thing.
To someone who doesn’t know me personally, this discovery of a new passion may appear inspiring. Especially considering that I was about 39 years old when I fell in love for the first time with cross-country skiing. To someone who does know me, however, it’s par for the course. As my roommate likes to say, wait six months and I’ll be into something new. In all fairness, this observation isn’t necessarily true but it’s also not that far off base. I usually don’t cycle through activities that quickly. My commitment is generally measured in years rather than months.
But the fact remains, throughout my life I have fully committed to many different and unrelated endeavors. I won’t list them here. Just know that it’s been a wide range of activities and “careers.” And, eventually, I’ve distanced myself completely from many of them. Not because there was anything inherently wrong with them or me. Mostly it was just because I took them as far as I was willing to go and no longer wanted to pursue them as long-term goals.
At a certain point, regardless of activity, it’s always prudent to re-evaluate what’s next. Knowing that we have a limited time on earth, how much more do we want to invest in this thing? And, are there other activities and passions that we’d like to pursue before catching the last train out?
I do believe most people struggle to one degree or another with embracing, for example, a new career path or personality-defining passion. To completely reinvent yourself is no small task, after all. But it may be necessary if your passion no longer serves you as it once did.
As I may have previously mentioned, I have pursued certain activities to a relatively high degree. But, eventually, you start to realize that you’ve successfully navigated the wilderness and found the path. The problem is, that path may just lead you to the top of a mountain. Now, that may have been your goal all along but what comes next?
Are you going to hang out on that summit for the rest of your life?
Or, are you going to go and hike another mountain?
And once you climb that, another?
And then another?
You see where I’m going with this, right? One peak after another crossed off the list. In some respects, this defines my life experience. Climbing all of these different mountains. Now, whether or not I’ve ever actually reached their respective summits is irrelevant. The important point is that I have doggedly pursued my passions, investing a lot of time and resources into them. Unfortunately, many just wound up being dead-ends.
I’m not saying that I have regrets. However, I do have to admit that this type of peak bagging lifestyle can just yield superficial experiences and, again, lead to those dead-ends. I’m not trying to sell myself short, here, because I have achieved many great accomplishments. But this approach to life essentially affords you the opportunity to see a little of everything, but not much of anything. You get the broad but not the deep.
And, at this point in my life, I want to feel cohesion and unity between the activities in which I participate and the passions that I pursue. I want a synergistic experience where all of my goals and projects support one another, on some level, resulting in the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
There’s obviously nothing wrong with having diverse interests. We all do. But how do we sort and organize these interests, goals, and passions so that they do function in harmony? And how do we know just how much to invest in each one of them lest they lead to more dead-ends?
Unfortunately, I don’t believe that there’s a surefire litmus test to determine what and for how long we should pursue a thing. I suspect there are multiple considerations to take into account during this process. What I do know, however, is that constantly jumping from one thing to the next can be exhausting and demoralizing especially if the activities in question don’t share any perceivable relationships.
Now, doing something for the sake of gaining experience is fine once in a while. But, again, if the new experience and skills learned don’t readily transfer to other aspects of the greater picture of your life (i.e. your goals and passions), it all unfortunately has the potential to just be a waste of your time. On the other hand, participating in activities just for the fun of it can definitely be beneficial by providing a much-needed break from the stresses of life and our pursuit of goals.
Setting those latter examples aside, I’ve been trying to reconcile this problem of mine ever since I started Tahoe Trail Guide (c. 2016). That is, of wanting to have a comprehensive life experience while still having the opportunity to dive deep into various interests. So between my website and YouTube channel, I’ve created this big umbrella which covers all of the outdoor-related topics that I want to pursue. Essentially, I can transition between many different activities yet they still support one another.
For example, I can learn all about birds and plants while participating in their respective Tahoe Big Years. At the same time, I’m exploring new hiking trails of which I can write articles, capturing footage for use in YouTube videos, and taking photographs to either sell as prints or use as reference material for artwork.
Even my seasonal jobs fall under this umbrella because they’re both part of the outdoor recreation industry. So before, during, and after work I’m often in the zone either sharing my love of the outdoors or just experiencing it firsthand. Just take a look at my last two cross-country skiing vlogs, numbers 45 and 46 (posted below). I captured the footage for both of them while I had free-time before clocking in to work at the xc ski center these last two weekends.
Clearly, it’s not my intention to brag about finally figuring it out (at least for myself). Rather, it’s my hope to inspire you to take a closer look at the activities that fill up your day. Are these the activities that you want to be pursuing? Does the idea of maintaining your current routine for the next 5, 10, or 15 years elicit a sense of hope and happiness? If you answered yes to either, great! But if you didn’t, and you’d rather be pursuing something else then why aren’t you doing that?
Incorporating a change in the direction of your life doesn’t necessarily need to be dramatic. You don’t have to scrap everything and start from scratch. The change can be subtle and incremental but, if so, it does need to happen sooner rather than later because in this fashion getting to where you want to go will take time.
For example, making a step turn while cross-country skiing in order to change your direction of travel only requires you to take small steps in that direction. However, you have to initiate this change early because of the time it takes for you to make all of those small steps. And if you don’t start early, you’re going to wind up skiing right off the trail.
So for those of you who have been looking to initiate change in your life, consider starting small but thinking big. With some creative problem solving, could you fit most of your interests and passions under one big umbrella?
Building habits into my workflow.
I’m trying my hardest to get back into a creative routine by producing new art every week. I don’t know that I’d consider any of these masterpieces (haha!), but they’ve been fun to make and I think they’re turning out just fine. Although they may not be winter landscapes in the traditional sense, I believe I’m getting in the ballpark of evoking winter vibes 🙂
In addition to producing the xc ski vlogs (see below) and doing a lot of snow shoveling(!), I did carve out some time to write another Tahoe Trail Guide article. I admit that this one wound up being slightly longer than planned, but I think it’s still a worthy addition to Tahoe Trail Guide 🙂
Due to having to deal with so much snow last month, the most I was able to produce as far as videos go were a few xc ski vlogs. I just didn’t have it in me to create any longer format how-to videos because they take far more time and effort. Also note that the last two vlogs in this selection are essentially silent films. Omitting dialogue and only focusing on capturing the action is the quickest way for me to produce new content.
Honestly, the silent action films are actually really fun to make because they’re straightforward and, therefore, easy to digest. Basically, what you see is what you get which is a dude cross-country skiing through the forest 🙂
But, even though those particular videos don’t offer specific information, they highlight what an xc ski session could look like when using classic diagonal stride technique. Most people new to cross-country skiing just don’t have many opportunities to see someone ski at a sustained pace using proper technique. So, in that respect, these do provide value. Well, at least in my opinion 🙂
A selection of other winter-related articles for you to read, if you haven’t already 🙂
Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…
Tahoe Trail Guide is an online resource for hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the Lake Tahoe region. In addition to trail data, I offer backcountry “how-to” articles and information about the local and natural history of Tahoe. Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.
If you like any of the images I post in these newsletters, please contact me. I’d be more than happy to upload them to my RedBubble account so that you can order prints and other merchandise featuring the images.
A Note about Patreon and PayPal…
Patreon (orange button) is an online platform for providing financial support to creators who provide quality digital content that’s otherwise free. I offer various subscription tiers starting at $3. And all subscription tiers from $6 and up will receive original artwork after six consecutive months of contributions. The button directly below the Patreon button is a way in which to provide a one-time payment via PayPal (if subscriptions aren’t your thing).
My newsletters here on JaredManninen.com, the articles that I publish on Tahoe Trail Guide, and the videos I upload to YouTube will always be free. But if you’re interested in contributing to the health and longevity of my websites and YouTube channel, consider subscribing. Even a little goes a long way 🙂
To broaden my audience and get more mileage out of these newsletters, I’ve begun to adapt them into short videos for YouTube. I’ll incorporate short video clips into these recaps whenever possible as I do often capture nature videos when I’m outdoors (but don’t use the footage anywhere else). Essentially, I want to make two different presentations with a minimal amount of extra work rather than just creating a 1-to-1 adaptation of these text and photo versions of my newsletters.
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