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The Charge

To say that 2020 has been the most unique and challenging year of our collective lives feels like a massive understatement. It’s been a struggle, and while I hope that we’re through the worst of it, it is only June.  If the first half of this year has taught us anything, it’s that control can be the most deceptive of illusions!

My family and I attended our first race of 2020 in early June, and we’ve competed on some level each of the 3 weekends since. I don’t say that to overemphasize the importance of racing (in fact, as you read on, you’ll probably notice that the theme of this entry is quite the contrary). I share this news instead because, as many racers will attest, despite living in a really awkward time – here in Illinois, restaurants are still closed for inside dining, masks are required, etc. – when we go to the race track, it feels relatively normal. We’re parked near other people.  We talk to other human beings – face to face! We compete in the same manner we have for years. There are subtle differences (the lack of spectators, masks on some track personnel, an emphasis on minimal hand-to-hand contact between racers and staff, etc.).  But by and large, it’s almost as if – at least in some ways – racing removes us from the pandemic, or at least the feel of the pandemic. For most of us, it’s a welcome diversion (one that I hope we don’t come to regret).

For many racers, this return to competition brings a renewed focus – perhaps an even greater clarity of purpose behind the wheel and gratitude for the simple joys of the race track life. If that’s you, that’s awesome! 

Personally, I haven’t really reached that point yet. And in speaking with several other racers, I’ve realized that I’m not alone in this sense. I’m just not as invested in racing right now. The reasons for that could be multiple:

  • It feels weird that my kids can’t congregate at a playground park, but I can go racing with hundreds of my “closest” friends. There’s a hint of guilt and uncertainty in the irony of that.
  • Although racing schedules feel more concrete by the day, there’s this unmistakable feel that the season has been flipped upside down. I guess I’m just a creature of habit: I find that I’m struggling to harness the drive and motivation around racing that I’ve been accustomed to for, let’s face it, my entire adult life.
  • I’ll be honest: I’m not 100% sure that we should be racing at all. The biggest mystery surrounding this pandemic is the overwhelming onslaught of conflicting information about the virus, how it spreads, even how deadly it is. We convince ourselves that racing outdoors, particularly in the summer months, while being mindful of our proximity to and contact with others doesn’t put us (or the people around us) at significant risk. Hopefully that’s true. But do we know? I’m not judging here: I’m out there racing too! My point is that my uncertainty and lack of understanding creates a bit of an inner conflict.
  • I feel dirty for even saying that I “enjoyed” social distancing when I know the impacts this pandemic has had on so many. While I never would have chosen to shelter in place on my own, there were elements of the isolation that really forced me to evaluate what mattered in my life. I enjoyed spending more time with my wife and our children (without the constant pull of obligation to be somewhere or do something). The return to “regular” life and in our case racing has me evaluating – now more than ever – how and where I want to spend my time and energy. 

At any rate, while thinking along these lines, and I had a strikingly simple epiphany. Perhaps it’s so simple that it’s embarrassing. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to share it, because it made me feel better about my situation. And if it makes you feel better about your situation, then it’s worth my time 100x over.

Do you know how, as racers, we typically charge the batteries in our race car for a brief period of time, at a high charge rate, in between rounds? This gets us the necessary outcome: our car starts for the next round of competition. Long term, it’s also detrimental to the life of our batteries. What those batteries need is a sustained charge at a lower charge rate. For long term health, those batteries are far better off to charge at 2 amps for 20 hours than they are to charge at 30 amps for 20 minutes.

I think our bodies, and perhaps more appropriately our minds, operate in much the same way. And just like we do our cars at the race track, we allow our minds just enough rest to operate at a satisfactory level. Yet to operate at an optimal level – for a sustained period of time – what we really need are those deep recharges.

I’ve decided to frame 2020 as a “charging” year. I mean, it’s nearly July… How much can I cram into the next 4 months anyhow? I’m committing to the idea of taking a small step back – or at least, not feeling the obligation to make a giant leap forward. We’ll still race. I’ll still work. I’ll do my best to uphold the obligations that I’ve committed to. But rather than continuing to constantly strive for more – something I’ve done my whole life – I’m content to “charge.”  A nice, slow charge. Perhaps the result is a rejuvenation for me in 2021. Perhaps this charge proves to be the break that I need to reevaluate my own priorities and pivot slightly going forward.  I don’t know. And that’s the point: I think it’s OK not to know.

If any of this resonates with you, my message is that you’re not alone. You’re not weird. You’re not messed up. Or, at least, you’re not any weirder or more messed up than I am! I think it’s OK to “charge” anytime, but specifically now, given the turmoil that we’ve faced and are still trying to make sense of.

Recharge.

Reevaluate.

And (potentially) redirect with greater focus and greater clarity.

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