When Your Passion Becomes Your Career: Guest Post by Evelyn Stevens
Evelyn Stevens left Wall Street to become a professional cyclist and hasn't looked back since. In just three years, she went from amateur biker to an Olympic athlete. She's a 3-time World Champion and has had over 20 victories in top races, like the Ladies Tour of Holland, the Fléche Wallone Féminine World Cup, & the USA Cycling Time Trial National Championships.
I don’t j-walk, I rarely drive over the speed limit, sky diving sounds like the worst idea in the entire world to me, and you definitely won’t find me bungee jumping. Yet when I found bicycling racing at the age of 26, I quickly came to the decision to throw away my nice salary, my health insurance, and quit my job on Wall Street to pursue my new found passion.
I graduated from Dartmouth in 2005 and hopped right onto a fast moving career path with a job in investment banking at Lehman Brothers. Over the next four years, I made a steady salary, had a 401K plan, wore a suit every day, had an apartment in NYC, and never even thought about healthcare because I was always covered through my job. Everything changed once I bought my first bike in 2008 and subsequently entered my first bike race in June 2008. I loved it and much to my surprise I found that I was good at it. As I entered the summer of 2009, instead of pursuing business school, like the majority of my colleagues, I decided to take a year off to pursue cycling. At the time, I had won a few local races but really had no idea of my potential, all I knew was that when I was racing my bike, everything felt right. So in July of 2009, I quit my job, sold all of my furniture on Craigslist, moved out of my apartment, and ventured off onto a very uncertain path, but one that continuously proves to be fulfilling and challenging.
Over the past five years of being a professional cyclist, I am continuously asked about my decision making process at the time when I quit my job. My inner type A personality always want to answer that I had a meticulous list of pros and cons and after recognizing the pros outweighed the cons, I decided to quit my job. But that would be a lie. Instead, I was thinking it would only be for one year and I knew I would regret not taking the risk, which would plague my sleep as I got older.
The one thing I didn’t consider right away was health insurance. In the beginning I paid the outrageous amount for COBRA (thinking it would be only for one year) and over the years I have struggled to feel comfortable with my coverage. For example, if I was in a training accident I would definitely resist getting into an ambulance for the fear of the bill! Sadly, this is quite a common mindset in the world of professional cycling. I no longer think of cycling as a one year excursion, but I view it as my career at this time in my life and since I have been using Stride, I feel much more comfortable knowing I am fully covered. Cycling is an inherently dangerous sport and knowing that I won’t get an outrageous bill if by chance I need to take a ride in an ambulance gives me more peace of mind, allowing me to focus a 100% on being the best cyclist.
Fortunately, so far my decision to quit my job and become a pro cyclist has proved to be a smart one. I was lucky and quickly found success. I have traveled the world with my bike, competed in the 2012 Olympics, won a few World Championship medals and have had the chance to pursue my passion at the highest level for my job. Of course there have been some big crashes and lows in the sport, but I wake up every day motivated to push myself to that next level. You still won’t find me jumping out of a plane, but knowing I am fully insured you might find me going a bit faster down the road on my pursuit of a medal at the 2016 Olympics.