Excellent Opportunities

Dear J-

When I was younger, riding my bike meant freedom — at first, freedom from safety, as mandatory helmet laws weren’t around and after having watched Breaking Away, Quicksilver, and American Flyers (to this day I’m still convinced the Quarter Pounder is the finest burger that McDonald’s makes — admittedly, the criteria are not particularly selective) I believed that if you weren’t riding fast and aggressive, you weren’t riding at all.  This, of course, was before I learned how to adjust my brakes, so every trip downhill became an exercise in acceleration.  Later it was freedom from distance — Cheney, where I grew up, was not particularly big, and I could ride around it in less than an hour, which came in handy when riding by the house of the girl you had a crush on, hoping that she’d glance out the window and notice (notice what, I didn’t think of; just notice would have been enough right then).

The hills around here seem steeper, or perhaps the years of Quarter Pounders have just caught up with me, and I haven’t been able to pass anyone lately.  The younger me would have sneered and ridden past in a trail of dust; I make up little excuses about how I’m carrying extra weight, or that the bike is out of tune, but it really boils down to a different kind of freedom.  I’m relatively free from gas prices — the vanpool charges are nominal compared to driving every day — and from having to drive a ton.  My schedule is shifting at the end of the month, though, and I’ll go back to the drive, leaving earlier and returning later to satisfy somebody’s concept of support.

We should choose carefully which freedoms to give up.  The vanpool, generally speaking, makes the job more bearable:  I have a free period in the mornings, hopped up on adrenaline following the bike ride, and a nap opportunity in the afternoons to make my nights last a little later.  I don’t arrive at work frustrated with other drivers.  The job is a good one, and I should be grateful to have one in this market, but I can’t picture myself spinning my wheels, as I have for the last year, for the next twenty or thirty.  Perhaps it’s just the impending change that has me nervous; life will find a new equilibrium, even if I can’t see it yet.  It’s less a question of forsaking freedoms and more an opportunity to excel, they’d tell me.



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