So far, June 24, 2007 is still looking like the date where everything changed. 2007 was meh in a lot of ways. It is the wisdom of time that tells me that for $300, some asshole thief taught me an important life lesson.
Had I tried to keep going on the course I had been taking, I would, sooner or later, end up a failure. It was not a sustainable path. It was a spiral downward. Spending the time between winter of 2007 and spring of 2008 without a bike, moping about it, taught me a valuable lesson. One that I didn’t need to hit rock bottom to learn.
It turns out that I can’t legally drive at the moment. It’s a silly DMV thing. My license expired on my birthday. I think I remembered that and assumed I’d get some paperwork in the mail from the DMV, but I never did. So I looked at my license when I was picking up a package from the UPS depot and realized it was expired. And, you know what, I’m a shitty liar. I couldn’t feign surprise when pulled over. I’d get slapped with a ticket for driving without a license for sure.
And, you know what? It’s not critically important. It’s one of those “Gee, I should get this done fairly soon” sort of things. Priorities have been rearranged. I could likely go for quite some time without a car or even without use of a car.
My friend Ursula might add that she got a little bit of life-changing events on the bicycle some years ago. As in, got hit by a car while cycling and her pelvic bone hasn’t been the same since. And, somehow, I realize that I’d have spiraled down into suicidal depression in due course on the old path, so even if I do get hit, I’ll have lived a better, longer, and more complete life than I had were I to have never ridden a bike.
Mostly, I worry about getting hit but not finding justice. I’m taking all of the reasonable rational precautions to avoid getting hit and the statistics show that, once you discard stupidity, cycling is actually fairly safe. It’s just that there are a number of hit-and-run accidents that have gone without at-fault drivers being brought to justice.
Just because you didn’t realize you made a choice doesn’t mean that you ended up making one. I’m not entirely pleased with the photos I took in 2009. I didn’t give them quite enough time and care. But I didn’t waste my year. Cycling time came somewhat at the expense of photo time. So, instead, I biked 3811 miles. I went from somebody who avoided long hills because I’d end up walking part of the way to somebody who has been shaving minutes off his hill climbs. I biked over the mountain to the Pacific ocean and back.
This year is when people started asking me where all the fat went. I have a new minion overseas and he was expecting a chubby nerd based on the picture in the corporate phonebook and was then surprised to see a much better proportioned nerd instead. Everybody tells me I look much healthier… and I am… but I was actually doing really well when I was only at the 5-10% weight loss point and still bulged out of a form-fitting cycling jersey. You don’t need to be skinny to be healthy, but you do need to be active.
One of my co-workers referred to my present lifestyle as a “health kick” and wondered why I was skipping out on my usual giant salad for a few slices of greasy pizza. It’s not a health kick, it’s the way things have to be from now on. And the nice part about my diet is that I get to eat exactly what I love to eat… it’s just that I really like having a giant salad around lunchtime, so everybody assumes that’s what I’m eating… which completely ignores the lamb and potatoes that’s waiting in the fridge for when I get hungry in a few hours.
There’s some research out that suggests that cardio health leads to improved brain functioning. I believe it. There’s at least one substantial raise to be credited almost directly to the improved brainpower that cycling brings.
We, as a people, have been too stupid to realize that we’ve been making decisions. The people on the right trumpet how somebody hacked into a server and found some emails that suggest that there might be some back-room infighting going on in the climate change thing. The people on the left think that if we just make biodiesel and windmills, somehow this will magically solve problems. Oh, and my favorite, carbon sequesterization. When we have a good containment leak from a carbon sequesterization facility, it’s going to make Chernobyl look like a walk in the park. Ever hear about Lake Nyos? It let off a cloud of CO2 that killed 1700 people and that was a drop in the bucket compared to what they are proposing to store underground.
I might have listed leaving a job that wasn’t working out anymore as the important date. Or going on some magical medication that would make me effective and content member of society. Or maybe even a really good drug trip or a soap-making alter ego pouring lye on my forearm. But the real change was a decision that changed the flow of my life, where I was able to make a giant decision without realizing what I had just decided that pulled me away from a downward spiral.
The funny thing about finishing a jigsaw is that when you try to jam a bunch of random pieces together, you won’t get anywhere. Only when you fit the pieces properly together will you see the beautiful picture. And you may not want to hear this, but with the CO2 levels ever increasing and traffic gridlock getting worse and worse until there’s literally nothing that you can do in many places to improve throughput, a lot of you people are jamming a bunch of jumbled puzzle pieces together. It’s only until you start making connections that you realize that everything fits together quite well and the car, the piece you thought was most important, is actually a tiny insignificant piece off in the corner.
I think it’s unfair to all of the progress we did make in 2000-2009 to call it a “lost decade”. It might be a prelude to a great decade. Or it might be the beginning of the end. It’s a choice that we collectively can make.