Growing up, I was always looking for someone who was going to lead me into the "thing" I was supposed to be doing with my life. I never really outgrew that idea. I had read stories, articles in newspapers and magazines, and heard personal experiences from a number of individuals who were happily going about their life's ambition. They would always have a person they'd credit as recognizing their talents and helping to guide them into the person they'd become. Perhaps it's the part of me that enjoys living in a bit of a fantasy world, but I fully expected this to be the case for me too. When routinely chosen last for sports and doing well enough academically to get through without much notice, it almost feels as though there must be some sort of fairy godmother out waiting to point out the thing that makes me special - that thing that I would excel doing - that thing that would cause me to wake up one day and say ah, yes, I really do have something I'm great at.
Everyone wants to believe s/he is good at something. Some people are great at lots of things, while others seem to really be able to focus in on one in particular and it charts a course for his/her entire life. Much as I hate to fess up to it, I can become really jealous of these people. I have always been more of a wanderer, a passer-by, or a curious dabbler, dipping my toes in the water of a lot of different things, always trying to find that one place, activity, skill that had eluded me my entire life. I get by in life this way because I have always been willing to work hard at whatever was in front of me. I've been hired to do jobs that I was in no way qualified to hold, but when it was something that I truly wanted to experience I always found a way to get the knowledge I needed and convince the hiring individual(s) that I was the one they needed - even when I doubted myself. Maybe it's one of the reasons I found myself on the other side of the hiring chair for several years, working to find the right individuals to work for companies. After all, it's hard to bullshit a bullshitter (though a few did sneak by me on occasion). That, and I genuinely enjoyed bringing people and a company together to form a great union.
My personal life has a lot of parallels with my professional life. I am great at providing what seems to be extensive information about myself without really getting to the core or exactness of anything. I'm not proud of that fact, and I don't do it intentionally - or I suppose more accurately, I don't do it consciously - but I think it's a protective buffer of sorts that allows me to check people out before really giving up too much of myself.
When it comes to athletic endeavors, I think my junior high school gym teacher put it aptly after I'd finished running one of the last of our weekly miles, heaving and attempting to regain regular breathing. She stated emphatically, "You will never be a track star." Well, duh. I was about 50 pounds overweight, short legs, with no desire to be a runner... and I could barely run the entire mile without passing out. Most of my time in school to that point I couldn't run the full mile, so to be able to reach the point that I could actually run the whole distance was a feat in itself. We're not all supposed to be track stars. I will say this though, I always gave it everything I had. I hated running with a passion (still don't love it to this day), but I was determined to be able to run the entire four laps of the track, which I accomplished without so much as an acknowledgement that I'd achieved something that seemed impossible months before. It didn't matter that everyone else could easily do it; what mattered is that I couldn't and I was able to overcome the mental and physical barriers to achieve a goal, no thanks to my gym teacher (who could've easily offered a few pointers to help me out).
One of the things I've learned as time has passed is that I can't always wait for someone to come and tell me what I should be doing. If I had waited for that magical, non-existent fairy or godmother to come along and point me down the proper path, I probably wouldn't have experienced so many different avenues in life. I'll put it this way: Some people take the same route to work every single day no matter what. I was never one of them. I like changing up the path and finding ways that seem ridiculous or out of the way. Sometimes the best kept secrets, adventures, and lessons are found by not choosing the path considered normal, safe, or most efficient. There are times this gets me in to trouble, but I often find that the trouble is worth the reward.
As I've gotten older, it's become easier and easier to lose some of that free-spirited, spur-of-the moment nature that lurks inside. The person who intentionally sought out new paths is slowly disappearing. Maybe it's age, or I suppose it's possible some might say wisdom, but I find myself in moments realizing that I've made a choice I wouldn't have made 15-20 years ago. At times, I choose the path that seems safer over the one offering an unknown experience, and I'm surprised at my decision. Those decisions seem to slowly be taking over the let's-just-go-for-it side of me.
Seasons change though, which can help bring new perspective. There is a part of me looking for that lost piece of self when I ride a bike, I think. Even on a known path, the outcome really cannot be entirely known until I'm on the other side. I think I'm slowly finding her again - that person who chooses adventure over routine, who makes last minute decisions and lives with the consequences, who doesn't necessarily make the most logical choice just because it's what she's supposed to do. I know that personal history is always going to play a role in the future, and experience will provide some level of importance and prevalence as time marches on, but I hope I always hang on to a piece of that person who looks for the unknown and adventure in life, and I think bicycles are one of the best ways to keep her in reach.