BEING AN ATHLETE, WOMAN AND A GUIDE
Federica Mingolla knows all too well: being a professional athlete, an alpine guide and a young curious woman, requires adaptability and mental flexibility. And sometimes it also requires compromise.
That’s right, compromise: the kind of spiritual contract by which we sacrifice a piece of ourselves to something or someone. It is poised between “giving something” and “receiving something in exchange”. It is that exchange that, as such, can work in your favour or against it. And, in the strictest sense of the word, means “to commit together”.
We talk about compromise in relationships, at work and in our families. For some people, compromise means distorting their very nature for things or people who do not represent our entire being, while for others it means moving closer to others. It’s a word filled with meaning, which requires humanity and softens differences. For “the good of who” or “in the name of what” do we want to use our time, our energy and our resources? It’s easier to talk the talk, than walk the walk when it comes to compromise. But, above all, what are the adjustments that each of us require of ourselves to be truly happy?
BEING AN ATHLETE TODAY
Being a professional athlete in mountaineering means, first and foremost, finding the point where the ethereal and the dream-like meet, intersecting two fundamental axes: hard work and beauty. Without the proper dedication to training, it’s impossible.
“Training changes according to the season. In fact, during summer I rock climb a lot and spend most of my time in the mountains, so I don't need any additional training. During the winter, on the other hand, I’m constantly in the gym, trying to lay a good foundation for the upcoming season. This is as far climbing goes. The rest of the time, on the other hand, I spend skiing or ice climbing. I try and want to be bored as little as possible.”
Being a professional for as long as possible means believing and building the required conditions to succeed, time-wise and financially. It means being able to be communicators and sacrifice a little of your training time and the pursuit of the “impossible perfect”, to succeed in communicating what you do and why. Federica knows this. It's part of the game and recognising this mechanism allows her to give it the right consideration, so that she doesn't get distracted and succeeds in the only thing that really matters to an athlete: getting excited before the endless time of an instant, which then others will also somehow manage to enjoy and rejoice in indirectly.
BEING AN ALPINE GUIDE
Preparation and method form and build the experience and authority of the person who accompanies other people into the mountains. Being an alpine guide means two things, first and foremost: being exposed to danger and being responsible for the safety of others. For Federica, being an alpine guide also means teaching the mountains to those who don’t know them. A profession that requires patience, commitment and consistency, yet which can also give you immense satisfaction in return. At times it actually allows you to combine your private and professional life, taking loved ones, friends and acquaintances to high altitudes. This doesn’t happen often in the life of a professional athlete. A life that has to be organised efficiently and that, however, does not exempt it from the most classic of dynamics: compromises in the pursuit of healthy daily balance.
“I strive to fit everything together in such a way that I can get more things done in the same day, including household chores, food shopping, walking the dog, working on the computer. Basically, I try to plan my week the best I can, to make things work around each other and, above all, also to make the people close to me happy. I find the so-called “middle ground” to be a challenge that repeats itself day after day: some days you win, some days you lose.
Nutrition, of body as much as of mind, plays a crucial role from this perspective.
We are what we eat, they say. My mum taught me this young and with full knowledge of the facts because she is an expert dietician in the field of nutrition. I don’t follow a precise diet. I eat well, I avoid processed foods and, when I eat, I don’t go crazy (also because I don’t feel the need if I eat often). I’ve been practicing 30/40 minutes of yoga per day for some time now: my mental health appreciates it!
BEING A WOMAN
Being a mountaineer and a mountain professional, especially when these two roles gravitate around your passion, absorb body and mind, totally. “The mountain gives and the mountain takes away”. Finding the compromise to not become a slave to yourself, but to experience other atmospheres and cultivate other interests, also lies in voluntarily moving away from the mountains sometimes. Reading a book alone, going to the theatre with friends, hanging out with people outside of the mountaineering circle, these are fundamental compromises to not become consumed by, but rather grow, your love for what we most identify with and what makes us feel good.
“Happiness is difficult to achieve and it doesn't last forever. Perhaps that’s why we all tend to get closer. Like many, I too can't say that I’m happy every day of my life, despite the fact that I do what I chose, but I make choices every day to get closer to the happiness I am seeking. It’s something I love, that I feel, that helps me to bring out my best. To achieve happiness, you need to compromise. Sometimes I follow my instincts totally and often I make a mess because I don’t think things through enough. Other times, on the other hand, I strive to silence my hyperactive tendencies to give me time to think. For me, compromise is something that I still haven't achieved, because I can’t say that I’ve succeeded totally, as, until now, I’ve made very few compromises. However, I trust that I will learn to make them, to balance things and find my balance, because a life without compromise can lead you to being an island, out in the middle of the sea. And that’s definitely not for me. It's right and natural that we open up to the world and to the people we love. That’s what compromise means to me: to do what I love without neglecting the people who love me and who need me in some way (and who I need).”
Perhaps this is the most important, the only compromise that matters?
“I think so”.