Great interview with Olympic diver Greg Louganis today on NPR today.
On returning to the diving world to mentor current Olympic hopefuls
It’s great to share those experiences. I’m most concerned with aftercare because as an elite athlete you finish your career and then you’re pretty young. When you retire from your sport then it’s almost like you lose a part of yourself. You lose your identity … I retired at 28 … You know, making that transition is not always easy. It’s like, “OK, now who am I? Who am I without my sport?”
His last question is an important one, even for people who are still practicing a sport, or a craft, like acting. When we dedicate ourselves to something like acting, as a life pursuit, it becomes necessary to, as the poet Rilke said, build our life around that necessity. And yet part of such a life, a life centered around an all-consuming passion, even an obsession, is that there are parts of that life that are separate from that thing. We have to have the ability to appreciate ourselves and our lives apart from our profession, even as we dedicate ourselves to it completely. Paradoxical, perhaps, but entirely necessary. The part that is not the life pursuit (friends, pets, hobbies, spirituality, travel, etc.) nourishes and maintains the flame of passion in the part that is. Having a life apart from the work is proof against the setbacks and disappointments that are bound to come, and also helps stave off burnout. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote:
‘A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope’