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I could barely watch the Winter Olympics last month because at 44 years old, I was finally aware that I would never win a gold medal at the half pipe.  So much so that when I went away skiing with my family last weekend, I couldn’t even bring myself to go in the half-pipe when my children asked me to show them how to do it.

Which is not to say that I ever really dreamed of being at the Olympics for anything.  Well, other than to cheer on and perhaps make-out with an athlete boyfriend after a big win.  But I have that same daydream about Nascar, the Academy Awards and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.  Surely one gal can’t be attractive to all four of those winners so I’m not really holding my breath. But I certainly did not spend my life dreaming of or working towards a gold in snowboarding.

I only tried the sport for the first time at 29 years old because I believed (in all my wisdom at the cusp of thirty) that snowboarding could possibly be the only new sport I might ever learn – and I wondered if I could be any kinder to myself in adulthood as a beginner.  Kindness was not even a consideration when I learned competitive sports in school and college.  Claiming it as a value in the twilight of my twenties was just as intriguing to me as learning to float over snow on waxed wood.

As it turned out I could be more patient with myself and it didn’t hamper my ability to succeed.  Within five years I was more advanced and um, rad, than most women, of any age, on any mountain I carved my way down.  And despite being gentler to my inner child and growing inner adult, the anonymity of a helmet, goggles and a full body snow suit seems to have also allowed me to push myself a little farther.  This is especially true now for me as it keeps my life as a wife and mother of three – and a TV actress who signs a clause in her contracts that she will not put herself in harms way while filming (and does so every time she gets off the chairlift…) under wraps.

But most sadly in this snowy success story is that that both parts of my 29 year old prophecy were right.  I haven’t even attempted any other new sports in fifteen years.  Yes there’s frisbee tag, golf, paintball and pole dancing ready for the taking but I talk myself out of them for the same reasons you do: children/Facebook/garage shelving/Starbucks/True Detective.

Or perhaps the deeper truth is that my psuedo-surfing-in-the-snow and the ever evolving ways I can play music inside my helmet while riding, is the one and only vice that is both dangerous enough to make me feel alive yet acceptable enough that I bother to continue pushing at it.

But to what end, I recently asked.

Specifically I asked when I saw a commercial with the red haired athlete ubiquitous with the sport of snowboarding and realized his run must nearly be over.  That Sochi would have be Shaun White’s last chance for a third gold medal in as many olympics – and when he missed it – his time was most likely done.  Therefore, so must mine be.

But my time at what exactly?

Hobbies always seemed like things that people who lacked ambition did. If we can just ignore the question of “where did I get this idea that play is for ne’erdowells” for just a second — as that is the exact explanation of what the therapist is for — is that what snowboarding is to me?  Play?  A hobby?

I am a firm believer in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory.  That 10,000 hours is the precise amount of time needed to begin to truly express oneself, excel at and WIN at a sport or art form.  If I am just reaching that marker now but will never compete at or make a living at said sport – am I hitting it as hard as I can for just the thrill of seeing my own progress?

The fact that I’m not actually “working” towards anything with my winter ski habit feels like the exact definition of mid-life.  That some “opportunities” are actually done now and have crossed over into pastimes. Which, feels a lot like what I imagine castration to be.

So yes fifteen years later, snowboarding is a hobby of mine – which is both the obvious and hard-won answer.  And perhaps getting over my own hangups about play is the thing I have to work on now at the cusp of 45 – since I wasn’t really aware of what midlife meant until the word hobby hit me in the face like ice.

  1. Nicole Baugh on Tuesday 25, 2014

    I love ping pong (table tennis). My mom was a champ in ping pong back in her high school days. I would love to try boxing.

  2. Mikay on Tuesday 25, 2014

    As I am a high schooler, I can’t really weigh in on my sport becoming a hobby, though I do sometimes wonder if it is worth it. I have been a horse back rider since I was a little girl and right now it’s my life. I train 5-6 days a week. I do one of the most dangerous things you can with horses, cross country jumping. My horse is young and inexperienced and I am often injured. I wonder if this is worth all the broken arms/legs/fingers/toes/ribs, concussions, bruises, and shattered confidence. While I’m very good at it, I know I don’t have the money to go past my statewide competitions. As I look at colleges, I can already see it going from sport to hobby, if that.

  3. laurie b on Tuesday 25, 2014

    I love how you are able to comment on the obvious so well that it makes me look at the same thing in my life. Go girl LB

  4. yb on Tuesday 25, 2014

    I think your competitive nature will never slow down and neither will mine. I think it is the thing that keeps us all alive. Don’t hate it!

  5. max w. ell on Tuesday 25, 2014

    Hi Diane
    I was wondering if you would consider writing for an urban blog. If so you can reach me on twitter as I sent a note there as well.
    Cheers, Max

  6. Gabby on Tuesday 25, 2014

    I have been too afraid to take my little ones skiing. I have let them do other sports like football and soccer but the chance of them getting really hurt just seems more present with skiing. Maybe I will give it a try though.

  7. Monica Mayberry on Tuesday 25, 2014

    I love how the author sees how hard she was on herself in younger days and thought to take up snowboarding to see if she could do it differently. I would like to try painting with the same goals. I don’t have a lot of time but I would like to use what I have better.

  8. Bill Rice on Tuesday 25, 2014

    Happy Birthday Diane Farr!

  9. karin on Tuesday 25, 2014

    I find your introspection really inspiring. I don’t know that I look in on myself enough to see where I am at during each stage or after

  10. Frankie P on Tuesday 25, 2014

    HI Diane
    I was thinking the same thing when I saw Shaun White didn’t win at the olympics. I thought our whole generation of boarders was now too old to win and had to pass it on. I didn’t exactly include myself in the winning part but I definitely felt the same thing. Love your writing, Frank

  11. a is for Gwenny's kid on Tuesday 25, 2014

    smart and hot and she snowboards what else do you need

  12. chong on Tuesday 25, 2014

    Your writing is great and I really enjoy the blog.

  13. nancy p on Tuesday 25, 2014

    Hey I love your column, Diane. How can I find it in print?

  14. Estetician Ellen on Tuesday 25, 2014

    I would really like to advertise on your site could you please contact me at Thank you in advance for your time

  15. WW on Tuesday 25, 2014

    Never give up on your dreams Diane! Isn’t that the last line in Kissing Outside The Lines???
    Love your writing thank you

  16. Diane Farr on Tuesday 25, 2014

    just do the sports until you don’t enjoy them or you don’t see them causing greater good in your big picture Mikay.
    atb, DF

  17. Diane Farr on Tuesday 25, 2014

    Laurie B, bestest bestie ever thanks df

  18. Diane Farr on Tuesday 25, 2014

    think yb is right. could it be a Yosef on here??? df

  19. Diane Farr on Tuesday 25, 2014

    um thank you, it’s not my birthday for half a year though. I will keep this thought in mind then though…

  20. Diane Farr on Tuesday 25, 2014

    thank you Karin. introspection vs self depreciation? not sure which but thank you df

  21. Diane Farr on Tuesday 25, 2014

    hi nancy,
    I’m not sure how to find my column in print either. it is called Humor Hotel and it runs for Tribune Media (nationally and internationally). I was told to set a google alert with my name to when it posts (or moves as the publisher calls it!) but that will be too much Diane Farr for me. Thanks for following it. df

  22. Diane Farr on Tuesday 25, 2014

    thank you ww…
    words to live by either way. df