Sunday, November 9, 2014
At The Heart of It
The racing season seems to be winding down slightly for this year. I say "slightly" because for me it doesn't really end. There's always a race that pops up here and there and there's tons of things to do to get ready for next season. It has been a long year with races spread all over the south and many, many miles driven and late nights and early mornings coming home. Last year never really ended for me either, with racing going well into what is supposed to be the off season and continuing into this season. So, the years kind of run into each other with what I do. I don't complain about it because I'm a wanderer by nature and I never like to be held in one spot for long. Solitude is part of my nature but so is constant movement. I'm a yin and yang type personality, but even the most seasoned of us racing season vets can have this take a toll on us and even the strongest can lose heart.
In the racing world, drivers have many races to choose from each and every week and the ones they choose may have them traveling an hour from home to half a day from home. In the beginning of the season it's not so much a problem but as the weeks start to run into each other, and you come home early one morning only to have to wake up and prepare the car for the very next long haul to the next show, it can begin to wear on a driver. I know these drivers do this because they have a passion and love what they do but what drives them is heart. It's that heart that keeps them going during those long nights and early mornings, those long hauls that never seem to end. I've mentioned a racers heart before. That if you plan to be in a racer's life you must be prepared to share that heart because part of it beats for racing. That heart is the driving force for them.
My question is, what happens when they start losing heart? When the season starts to become too much and the pressures of racing, with money and time being the main problems, start to affect that heart. The beating and pumping that once was so strong begins to slow and sometimes feels like it's breaking. Consistent bad nights at the races have caused some of the strongest of racers I've known to have that heart become broken. Watching a person's heart breaking like that is watching a person become destroyed from the inside out. You slowly watch it change a person. What was looked at the beginning of a season to be the year with trophies and podium finishes turns into broken race car parts, empty wallets, and short tempers and the heart begins to fade and thoughts of quitting racing become more and more realistic.
When you begin to lose heart it doesn't mean you don't love racing anymore, it means everything that comes with racing is pulling you down into a black abyss that feels hard to pull yourself out of. The heart is still there, but it's weakened to the point of giving up. So many drivers I see at the end of the season start to lose something in what they do. They don't stop loving racing but they stop loving the racing life. There's a big difference. What becomes of a person without that heart? They're not the same person. As a person guided by heart and motivated by my heart in all things, to not have it as it once was with something I love is devastating for me. I know it when I see it in others. Lately I've seen it with some drivers I truly care about. It becomes distressing to watch a great driver with such hopes and plans at the beginning of the year and such a strong heart turn into someone who is sullen, quiet, pessimistic, short tempered and become a word I absolutely hate, a quitter.
What is really going on at the heart of it? Pressure to perform as they think they should will bring them down or maybe a string of broken car parts from wrecks or freak accidents are causing an empty wallet making a driver have to choose how they can spend their money for the week. Maybe the people in the crew have brought drama with them all season long and it's making it where a driver doesn't even want to show because they never know what embarrassment a crew member, girlfriend, family member, and unfortunately, a wife, will bring with them. This pressure combines to make the heart start to slow further and what was the driving force before, starts to give up. The smile begins to fade and the excitement fades to something like a sense of racing out of an obligations to friends, fans, and family. When you drive for someone other than yourself out of a sense of duty, you take all the fun out of what racing is supposed to be.
When you feel the pressure of the racing life start to get to you and just become some outer shell of a person, you're losing touch with what brought you here in the first place. You lose touch with your heart. It will break the most bendable of souls if you let it. I can confess that it's almost broken me before. It's broken my heart, it's made me want to stop believing in the good side of racing, and it's brought me to tears but as a person driven by heart, I never let it stop beating and every time it breaks, I learn to repair the cracks. I refuse to let my heart give in, I refuse to let it quit, and I refuse to let it break. In all things I find worth investing my heart in in this life, racing or otherwise, I will keep going even when I feel I can't go any further. This is the same thing, in some small way, that keeps a driver going even when that sense of obligation kicks in. The heart may barely be beating but even the faintest of beats is still a beat.
The season becomes long and stressful and the heart becomes weary but never let it stop. Don't give up on what you love and definitely don't let the pressure get to you. Don't let it change you. Keep letting that faint pulse drive you till you feel you can't go anymore and then take a break and go again. I never want to give up on what I love and my style is to go hard, go all or nothing, take a break, get my heart strong again, and get back to what I love. When a driver begins to lose his heart in racing the best thing we can do is give them time to gather themselves back together, to get the heart pumping wildly again, to let them remember why they loved what they loved in the first place. Let him or her take the time they need away from racing if that's what they need and I promise it will bring them back to the reason they began this life. A person who loves racing will never truly leave racing. Some part of them will always remain with it because after all is said and done in racing, what I've learned is that the love for the sport is ALWAYS there, and this will always be what is at the heart of it and this is why we will always, always come back to what we love.