Yes, I know I still have many days to write about, and I will try to catch up on them, but for now I wanted to write a final reflection on the trip before I got to far removed from it.
“You are what you did”
I got this from Tony Magee. I’m not sure if it’s an actual quote from someone else, but it’s a personal axiom of his and when I heard it while listening to his book, I could not help but think about this little bike ride I went on. I just rode a bicycle, loaded up with gear, alongside two friends, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and not in a straight line, that’s what I did, but I guess if you are reading this you already knew that.
I think it’s apparent that a consistent theme of my writing centers on the past, present and future. What do these words mean? What control do we have over these three sections of time and how do we come to terms with them? I spent all summer attempting to live in the present, taking in my surroundings, my breathing, the smell of the land, eating, sleeping, drinking, smoking and hanging out with friends. The past, the future, they crept into my thoughts, but nowhere near the extent to how they had consumed my previous years.
I would think about some of the previous day’s rides, the obstacles we had tackled. I would look forward to hitting the Pacific Ocean and not getting hit by a car. What would that feel like? Would I break down? Would I feel regret or relief of having completed the most physically challenging adventure I had ever set out on? What would life be like at the end? Could I return to how things were before I left? Did I want to? These thoughts would come, but they would be brief and I would quickly find myself watching the landscape pass slowly, feeling the fatigue in my legs, checking to see if it was my turn to lead the ride. I would just ride, ride my bike till it wasn’t time to ride any longer. One pedal, one mile, one day, one month at a time.
“You are what you did” seems to be a reflection on past actions, but it is more than that. It as much an axiom about the past as it is the present and the future. For something to become a thing we have done, we must strive to do it, planning the future, and then we must complete it, operating in the present, and then it’s done, put into our past. In a way it’s sort of a backwards structure of time, future first, present second and past last. But I think most of us live in this structure and it’s more than just a cultural or societal thing, I think it’s how we are wired as humans. We look toward the future with hope and optimism and then we work to get to these ideas of what or who we want to be and put them in our past. What choice do we have, time is coming irrespective of how still you try to sit. But sometimes sitting still is the best thing we can do to “free” our mind. To pause and take it all in and really try to evaluate who we are, how we are living. I think one of the most difficult parts of living is that the joy, the hope, the excitement, it’s often in the dreaming, not in the doing. The doing is tough and it’s why we all find ourselves “doing” different things, living different ways, failing to accomplish our dreams, or getting caught in the completion of one dream that really isn’t our dream anymore.
It’s incredible how different we all are. Erik, Ryan and I are very different, yet we came together and we did this thing. It wasn’t easy at times, but it really wasn’t that difficult. We had each other and friends along the way, and let’s be honest, we were pedaling around the country, taking in the geography and people in such a unique way, what is hard about that? That kicks the shit out of being at a desk, well at least my desk. I rarely was worried about my food or water, my shelter, really outside of getting hit by a car, I had little to fret over. So many people live in greater fear and uncertainty every day. They don’t have a comfy house or job to go back to, they can’t just walk into a gas station and buy three Gatorades, two burritos, snickers ice cream bars, cliff bars, skittles, beef jerky and everything else that looks delicious after riding for hours in the heat.
So here we are, 90 days later for myself and 100 for Erik, and infinity for Ryan as he continues to peddle and live on the road. What has changed? What did we learn? I get asked that a lot and I stumble with the response. I think deep down its because I feel like I need to tell people about how much I have changed, but I know the truth is I haven’t.
Sure I am a little skinnier at the waist, I grew a beard then I shaved it, I have a tough time sleeping in a bed without it wreaking havoc on my back, but my thought process, my desires, they really haven’t changed. I think it takes a certain disposition to set out on a trip like ours, just like it does to do anything, and I had that before I left.
When I sat here and reread this post multiple times over the last few weeks, I kept feeling like it was incomplete and I’ve known why, but getting it into writing, that has been a challenge.
Behind everything this summer, this year and the previous three years of my life there is a part that connects all the pieces, all the decisions I’ve made.
You gave me family, friends, trust, confidence, intellect, perspective, faith, hope and love. It can be so hard to look back and not feel overwhelmed that you chose to spend your last years with me, taking care of me at times more than I could for you. You chose to lay your head next to mine at night, to be there with me despite everything you faced. The weight of that, the responsibility of it, it keeps me moving forward, it’s made me stronger and I know I am blessed to have been given it.
But my return “home”, It’s been filled with anxiety. My days are no longer centered on getting up and just peddling. I’m back at work because we need money for stuff and I’m just not sure what to do. Do I want to start over again, find another partner in life like we had and start adding things into the future hopes que? The pull to just disappear again can be so strong. It’s easier to be with you when I am just going, riding my bike, running, swimming, hiking, or skiing. In that physical exhaustion, there you are pushing me along, reminding me of how good life can feel. Then it hits me, you remind me that as much as all I want to do is escape from the pull of working society, that as much as I want to be selfish, there is much more that can be gained from not being. If you could give to me what you did in those final years, I should be able to step up and give to others.
So I find myself in the middle of things, planning my moments to disappear and planning my moments to try and step up and make a difference, even if in the smallest of ways, like brewing some beer to give away and gearing up for Cycle for Survival’s 2016 season.
I miss the road I left behind desperately at times, but the road ahead, well it’s filled with hope.
Miss you Muppet