I got a lovely Christmas card from the Beautywild a little while back. It stated, among other beautiful things, that ‘We will always get what we want, and most often it will not look like we expected.’
It got me thinking, in my most recent round of ‘what am I doing with my life?’, of all the different things that I’ve wanted to do with my life in the past, and how it’s turned out for me.
Sometime early high school, I was one of those academically ambitious people. I think my parents had high hopes that I would stay on the straight-and-narrow, go to college, go straight to grad school, and emerge on the other end with a Ph.D. in some sort of science, preferably physics, though I’m fairly sure they would have been content with any ceremony where I’d get to wear that funny hat. Instead, I skipped out on my college graduation ceremony to ride my bike.
During my swimming career in high school, I had high hopes someday going to the Olympics. It was definitely one of those goals I had since I can remember what the Olympics were and I still watch the Games every time I can. There’s something fascinating about watching the best in the world do what they do best. But then after realizing that I was an all around crappy swimmer, I got a bike to pursue the triathlon avenue. That quickly fell apart and instead of pursing a sport that could have landed me in the Olympics, I ended up riding my bike across the country.
Somewhere in there, I wanted to be a swim coach. Instead, I ended up coaching the Western State mountain bike team for two falls. I loved it. Getting to coach was an amazingly gratifying experience and I’d love to be able to do something like that again. Losing that opportunity led to a much easier exit from the Valley for me, so in the end, I don’t regret it ending (or trying to fight for keeping it harder) either. I do miss riding my bike at Hartmans two evenings a week though.
For the majority of my undergrad experience, I had every intention of going to grad school. Then I discovered the mountain bike team, and somewhere between surviving my first collegiate nationals XC race at Angel Fire, surviving enough shots of tequila to turn me off from that form of alcohol forever, and somehow getting my hungover self home, I was pretty much ruined. Mountain bikes were where it was at. Grad school could wait.
Then I went through a bike messenger phase. Between getting to ride all day, go to the Mountain Sun far too many days after work, and living in the green Gillespie house, life was easy. Life was swell. Ambition was not at the top of my list. I got really good at trackstanding, weaving through traffic, and I know which grocery stores have the best samples, skills I still use on a daily basis. I still get a similar thrill maneuvering through traffic as I do riding singletrack, which is probably a bad thing. There’s a grace and art to it when done properly.
Eventually, I got tired of not wanting to ride on the weekends and I started teaching for the physics department and immediately fell in love with it. So, spurred on with the promise that all I had to do was get a Ph.D. (trivial, as physicist would say) and I could teach at a college, have my summers off, live the good life, I went back to school. This one held so much promise…until I got bored. The Masters was a small consolation prize, but the big win was a cementing of realizing that I had zero desire to do research. Period. It bored me silly. The even bigger was that I rode by bike a ridiculous amount during that time. Riding bikes was far more fun that analyzing data.
And so I went to Crested Butte for the sole purpose of riding bikes. Except that you can’t ride bikes there for a very large portion of the year, which was a bit of an eye-openning bummer. I didn’t really think that one through.
But what this little exercise brought to light was that in the end, despite all of my best made plans and goals, all I want to do is ride my bike. Every venue that I’ve gone down has either led to riding bikes, or has left me bored stupid, half-assing whatever I was doing so that I could ride bikes. Maybe I should start listening.
Maybe I really did have it figured out at 5 years old. I just want to ride my bike.
And be a unicorn.