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The Real Deal: Tommy D’Aprile On Balancing Life

Just the other day, I was looking at all of my racing pictures on the walls at my office, and I just had to take a minute and reflect on all of the different seasons, not only the race seasons but the seasons of life that racing has covered. When I started at the age of 14, I just couldn’t get enough. I would have raced seven days a week if I could. At that time, what other responsibilities do you really have, right? I would sleep, eat, and go racing. 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #184, the State of Drag Special Issue, in September/October of 2023.]

As the years passed, racing always seemed to take a front seat to anything in my life. I would not miss a race for anything or anyone. My priorities were racing first, and that was it. I remember a friend of mine saying he was going to step away from racing for a while to get his master’s degree, and all I could think of was how crazy he was to want to go to school and not race. I went to college but still raced every weekend. This was hard but worth it to me. I didn’t understand how he could be OK with missing a race. Talk about closed-minded – that was me. Now, I wouldn’t change anything, but I sure can see now how my self-centered perspective was blurred. 

I am happy to say these days, I can miss a race and the world does not end, although I sure thought it would have at one point in my life. What I’m getting at here is that our lives are pretty short. Racing is a great sport and we love to do it, but I try to balance it differently these days. Remember that guy who quit to get his master’s degree? Well, he did, and now he’s back racing with us. He missed racing but sacrificed it to better himself and get an education. He now holds a great job and still gets to race. 

Sometimes we tend to think that if we don’t make every race, we will miss something very important. Here’s the real deal: sometimes, when you don’t miss a race, you actually miss what’s most important. Guys and girls, listen up. A race missed to attend a little league game can show a little boy he’s really important. No one will remember you missed the race, but that little boy will remember you missed his game. He won’t forget. 

Some of you might say, “No way, I’m in the points.” I’ve seen guys with rooms full of trophies and numerous championships, some of whom are very well-known in our sport and might even be your all-time heroes. They have all the hardware but no relationships left. Every one of these guys had times they said they should have never left for a race. They would have given up every trophy and championship because of the pain it caused loved ones. As one man told me with tears in his eyes, “I’ve won it all but lost what was most important to me.”

Very few of us race for a living or would want to. It takes an insane amount of work and sacrifice, so for most of us, you won’t lose your job if you miss a race or two, but you might lose way more if you don’t stop and think about what you might be missing at home. 

The question of racing and a balanced lifestyle can only be answered by you. Take an honest look at how you approach racing. Is racing everything to you, or are the people around you more important? I tell you from experience if you don’t put racing in its place, it will own you, drive you broke, and leave the pieces for someone else to pick up. Our sport is great, fun, and absolutely fantastic, but only if you know how to balance it with life. As always, the choice is yours to make.

This story was originally published on November 3, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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