Life update, 2010

November 15, 2010

One year ago today, I finished my bicycle adventure across the country. It seems like so much longer ago than that, as agreed on by a friend recently, who was pretty sure it has been two years since I finished. I feel like in most ways, I am the same person I was before I started the trip, when I was ready for an upheaval in my life and finally took the plunge after years of putting such an upheaval off. I wanted the trip to give me new insights, to expand my horizons, to travel and push myself. But I also wanted something to change. At the finish line, I wanted to think, what’s next, and have the answer.

But I did not have any real answers. I only had decisions to make. I think that is what I learned the most from the trip: that as long as I am open to the ideas, I can adjust to any situation. I had believed that about myself, but only really understood it as true when I put it to the test of really being outside my comfort zone. I decided that no matter what decisions I make now in my life, I can change them if need be. Life is short enough to not mull over my choices. I can choose to do something now, and if it does not work out, I can choose something different. I have control in that sense. The loss of control only comes from making excuses as I had done in the past, of locking myself into something I don’t really want under the impression that it is what’s best for me.

I have unattached myself from the idea that what I do next in life could limit me in some way, that it would mean I have chosen a path which I am locked in to follow. That is what has been stopping me in the past – unable to decide my next steps in life due to the belief that I would not be able to live life to the fullest if I gave in to just one interest of many. But the trip has helped me see that any experience is what you make of it. And by the time I ended my trip thinking this way, no more was I under the impression that I had to do anything. I did not have to have a job that would give me great pay and benefits if it meant I had to sacrifice my creativity, or my interests. I did not have to live anywhere for very long: I could try something out and if it clicked, I could stay, if not, I could leave.

I decided to move to Athens, Ohio after a little time spent in San Diego with my gracious and wonderful hosts Sam and Fred. I would have been just as happy there with them, but I chose not to stay. Knowing that I always have the option to return has been my saving grace. I chose instead to visit with Jarrid, whom I met on the trip, instead, and to find out if it would be worthwhile to see where that could take me.

It has not always been so easy, this past year. Being unemployed is different than being on a trip after choosing to be unemployed. Granted, I can be totally fine not having employment: I am a person who keeps busy and finds plenty to do. I found organizations to volunteer with, I audited a college course, I got a lot of fiction writing done. But being somewhere new only knowing one person who does not know very many people was challenging, more so than I expected. It should not have been surprising, because I went through the same thing when I first moved to Philadelphia, difference this time is the one person I know is someone I really like. But not having income and staying with someone who has little income makes things a little more challenging. If you will remember, all my belongings came with my across the country. I had to buy clothes and all those things again. In fact, in San Digeo, which was nice and warm, I bought a winter coat because going back east late November requires such attire.

There were many days early on where my resolve was dissolved: that is to say, I was not able to keep my generally sunny attitude. Part of my overall depression was due to only feeling like I had one real friend in a new place, part of it was not finding a job, and part of it was a deep sadness that my trip was indeed finished. I felt in many ways like I had rushed it, like I could have taken more back roads, could have stayed longer in some places. I longed for the days I could just wake up and feel the way I did when I was alone, pedaling for hours, not sure what was coming next but not nervous, or scared, not the way real life operates. I was mostly mad at myself for not applying everything that was true when I was on my trip to my current situation. I firmly believe that people are in control of their feelings, and their situations, and all the excuses that we make are roadblocks to our own happiness, our own understandings of personal success. That I could not seem to follow my own advice was the most depressing thing of all.

I still struggle with it. I didn’t have as much problem with it before my trip, but I also didn’t take quite as many risks. I have had many small adventures to get me to where I am today, and those adventures have shaped me. I will continue to have little adventures, which will not compare to the trip I had in scope, perhaps, but will continue to shape me.

I am satisfied with my current quality of life. The community of people here is eclectic, though you do have to do a little digging to find these pockets of really awesome folks. I work at a worker-owned cooperative restaurant, who use local and organic food, and it is a great place to work. I volunteer on an organic farm near my house who donate their yeild to those in need, and the farmers are such a good group of people. I also volunteer for a local PFLAG chapter, and am considering taking a board member position on the Ohio Bicycle Federation.

I had plans for school, and have temporarily taken them off the table to pursue other interests which are meaningful to me in a way that perhaps school will not be to me at least right now. I am researching a book I would like to write which is related to my trip in some ways, but quite separate from it in most. It is more about the state of America sociologically/culturally as related to the economic, political, and educational structures among others. I think writing this book will help me sort through some of my own dissatisfactions and shine the light for me on topics I know much less about to assist my own path in life.

And I am happy in my relationship, even though this is my first adult relationship and I still have a lot to learn about maintaining good communication and the like. My partner is supportive, and intelligent, and always full of useful solutions to problems. He is worth every annoyance to me, and apparently I’m worth every annoyance to him, like all the things of his I break, or the fact that even though I rode my bicycle across the country, I’m pretty terrible about maintaining my bicycle now and forget to pump up my tires regularly now that I have a road bike.

Yes, it’s true. I have since bought a road bike. I still have my Antoinette, but I’m not sure if I should hang on to her for sentimental reasons, or give her to someone who does not have a bicycle. I have decided after all the money I’ve put into her since the bike trip, and the money I need to put into her again, it feels like I’m putting money into a clunker. There is nothing wrong with the frame of the bike, it just seems that I wear through parts on her faster than other people who also ride their bikes all the time. And she is heavy. This summer, I got a really good deal on a Specialized Dolce from 2004 that seems to be a better investment. It is such a nice bike. I might be able to rig Antoinette for one more winter, but I think after that I will retire her to someone else who will find great joy riding Athens’ excellent bike path, flat terrain that will make Antoinette extremely happy. Poor girl has never liked climbing hills.

I think I’m in a good place here, and now feel like I can make it work no matter where I go, since we both know we have a limited amount of time here. It took me about four months to feel settled here, after I finally got a good job I enjoy and met good people to share experiences with. I also feel like now I’m a much better writer after spending so much time during my unemployment that I am becoming more serious about trying to get published. No bites yet, but I am more certain with every story I write that I will be able to. A better writing group would help tremendously, though I have not found one here.

My bike trip is with me everyday. At least once a week, I am transported to one space in time during those 78 days and whether it was good or bad, I am happy. I am happy that I went the length to do it, and hope that I will get to do something like it again, this time with Jarrid. It would be wonderful to explore someplace together, to learn a little more than we knew before about life before we strapped panniers on our racks, filled up our water bottles, and peddled into headwinds and flew down hills to our hearts content.

I’ll let you know when that happens. Any thoughts, comments, and suggestions are appreciated. For now, enjoy life, listen to music, love people, and keep on peddlin’.

Section of the Hocking-Adena Bikeway in April

Part of the farm I volunteer for











The cooperative restaurant I work at