Reading my sister's blog was sort of like being grabbed by the collar and shaken.
I maintain this blog largely as something to do -- something, I suppose, to lend an additional degree of focus to my bicycular obsession. However, over the past several months, it has become increasingly unfocused.
I think that somewhere along the line I lost my sense of mission. That probably sounds a bit grandiose, but I think everything we do, in one way or another is imbued with mission -- whether that mission is "save the world" or "make riding bikes sound like the best thing anyone could ever do" or even just "lie around and be lazy for a morning."
I also think I lost some of the humility that I find likable in my older posts -- which is to say, my humor switched from mostly self-deprecating to largely self-aggrandizing. I don't really think I'm 'all that,' but I don't know that my egocentric-sounding posts, which are generally intended to be funny, make that clear.
So I guess it's time to rediscover the mission of my blog -- whatever it was in the first place -- or to figure out where it's trying to go now. I am a lot more interested in training and racing now than I used to be, and a little afraid of losing my 'roots' in the vehicular/pragmatic/touring/happy-go-lucky cycling world. A little over a year ago, I thought I would never be 'that guy' in matching lycra kit or 'that guy' who obsesses about kilometers, cadence, and components; I've managed to become both those things. I hope I don't, in the process, also become the overweening, arrogant, jerk-water flavor of roadie that everyone, including me, can't stand to be around. I suspect part of the unspoken mission of this blog is that it lets me remind myself that I'm human and fallible (in fact, I think I tend to put the 'fall' in 'fallible'). I will do well to remember that. (Are you listening, me?)
Second, and perhaps more importantly, I've realized that what this blog more clearly demonstrates than anything else is the lack of any ongoing connection to other bike people. I read other bike blogs, of course, but outside of the shop (and I'm almost never down there, at the moment), I spend little time around other bike people, even now that I have time -- and more reason -- to do so.
Yesterday, in the car, I said to DD: "I've been meaning to take a solo ride down to Lexington, and until now I haven't really had time to do it -- but now that I have all the time in the world, I'm still not doing it. I'm basically afraid to do that ride alone." That truth doesn't sit easily with me. I've done a lot alone in my life, and I like doing stuff alone, including long solo rides ... but something about riding seventy-five or so linear miles freaks me out a little: I know that in that ride I will, at some point exceed the radius of my comfort zone.
I can ride circles around the Louisville Metro all day because there is nowhere in the Louisville Metro that I would ever feel particularly 'up a creek.' If I experience an irreparable mechanical failure, nowhere in my home territory -- which includes all of Jeff County and much of Southern Indiana -- is very far from the familiar lights of the TARC bus. Likewise, there are probably ten or twelve people in Jefferson County who'd be willing to come pick me up if I call them, provided that I'm willing to wait a little while. For all that, I know I can walk ten or twenty miles if I really have to, though it might take a while (and, after all, it doesn't quite violate Rule 42). I've done it before.
Once I get out past the land of the TARC, though, the whole equation changes. It becomes a lot harder to get home if things mess up or if I just freak out for no reason (which is, at the moment, entirely possible). It's just me, the bike, and the road. And the people out there on the road, who scare me more than anything, not because I think there's anything wrong with Kentucky people -- in fact, Kentuckians and their Hoosier neighbors seem to be among the kindest people on earth -- but I am, believe it or not, deeply shy, especially around people who aren't obsessed with bicycles.
So I've learned that the only thing really standing between me and a pretty epic solo ride is fear, and I think I would like to do something about that.
Next, I've realized that the thing that's missing in my cycling life is connection to other bike people. I read some other bike blogs, and a few other bike bloggers read my blog -- but beyond the shop I don't actually manage to spend a whole lot of time around other bike people. I tend to be a little bit of a lone wolf -- and while there's nothing wrong with being a lone wolf, I would like to grow some connections to other people.
Since I seem to have stumbled into the role of occasional-bike-ride-coordinator for a social group to which DD and I belong, I'm taking part in Bicycling for Louisville's upcoming class, Bicycle Safety for Educators and Group Leaders. I'm hoping that, my spastic attempts to be more involved with Rogue stuff, and perhaps a bit more participation in bike club events will help me feel a little more grounded in the rich and fertile soil of Kentuckiana's bike culture (sidebar: do we just call it 'Kentuckiana' because 'Indiucky' doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, or is 'Kentuckiana' really a bit Kentucky -- or, should I say, Loovuhl -- centric?).
In school, I was deeply awkward, socially speaking. I was the kid who had literally no friends (as in, people to hang out with outside of an academic context) in middle school and only one in high school; the one who still occasionally says, "No, it really was that bad." It wasn't as bad as some kids have it; while I was relentlessly teased until seventh grade, I never suffered physical violence at school. In eighth grade, I was (rather laughably, in retrospect) feared for my long hair and ever-present black jeans and retro Metallica t-shirts. In high school, I just went unnoticed; I was the kid who was privy to everything because people literally didn't see me. Nobody really knew who I was, so I didn't even make a tiny blip on anyone's radar. I was lucky to have awesome teachers who got me through all that. People were startled to learn in my AP English class that I knew how to talk. (For the record, I have yet to decide whether being feared or going unnoticed was worse). It wasn't terrible -- my sister had it worse, and some of my experiences outside of school were much, much worse (while some were much, much better) -- but it was pretty bad. I like my alone time more than most, I think, but even I have my limits.
I'm not really whining about my past, here, so much as trying to explain myself. My past was what it was: better than some, worse than others, but it all reconciles okay; it made me who I am and I am sort of starting to like some things about me, and I figure maybe I can change the things I don't like (or learn to like them; whichever would expend less energy :D).
My point, though, is that I still tend to think of myself as the unpopular kid that no one really wants around. I don't really make an effort to make inroads to existing social groups (in part because I just don't really know how one can do such a thing, without being explicitly invited in). I just occasionally accept invitations that take all comers and hope someone will find me at least a little bit interesting. I am still startled by the fact that Murphy, the LBC president, remembers my name for some strange reason (and apparently recognizes me without my bike helmet and huge bug-eyed sunglasses, which is even more startling).
Until recently, I've simply regarded that condition as part of my nature. Now, I've started to realize that, like many other things, it's not a matter of destiny so much as of skill.
I am socially awkward. I do have difficulty understanding my fellow humans. That doesn't mean I'm inherently repulsive or uninteresting. I just need to work a bit harder at learning to be sociable without seeming like a golden retriever puppy on adoption day at PetSmart (OMG OMG OMG OMG PICK ME PICK ME OMG!!! Are you here to see me? Really? Really, really? AND YOU'RE GOING TO TAKE ME FOR A LITTLE WALK?????!!! OMGOMGOMG!!!).