I don’t know when the project started. Maybe it didn’t have a formal start. I just realized at some point that I was working on it. I think a lot of us are working on it and don’t even know. The bike might be part of our project. Actually, I think, if you’re riding a bike, you’re working on the project whether you know it or not.
You get older, not old, but older. You get tired of buying stuff and eating out all the time. Maybe you have kids. Maybe you have a health scare. I don’t know, but at some point, you turn a corner, and your sense of what you’re doing with your life changes. You get serious, even if that involves taking things less seriously.
This is the project.
The project is mental, physical and spiritual, too. It’s realizing your life really, actually does need some kind of meaning, and that the time to figure out what that is, is running short. One absolutely crucial element of the project is embracing the idea that you might be wrong about anything, about everything, and that either way it will help you to reevaluate even your most closely held beliefs about everything.
In my case, I had washed up in my early-30s mordantly depressed, a new father not dealing well with the added responsibility of raising kids. I was angry all the time. That’s when I realized I needed to get my shit straight, for my kids, for my wife, for myself. I wanted to stop wasting time. I got into therapy. I went to AA. I took some meds. I talked more about all the ways I’d been mistaken. I started working out, not just riding bikes but taking care of the whole machine. I started thinking much more deeply about what I was doing.
I practiced gratitude.
I went back to trying to decide what I thought about life, how to do it, what the point was, what the endless procession of generations might produce, what my part was. I started wanting to be more of a positive than a negative.
And I found myself surrounded by people asking themselves the same questions and trying out answers. Most of them had been through some shit. They had been depressed or were prone to it but had been around long enough to know they didn’t have to settle for that. We were finding our way forward as a group. This was true on the bike and off it, and it still is.
The Cycling Independent is part of it. What we do here is look for better ways to ride bikes and better ways to think about it, to look for meaning in every little positive change we can make to how we do this thing. Above all, to stay honest, to own our mistakes, to keep going.
I’m not sure what the project leads to. I guess I’m finding out. Probably there’s not one answer, but it swirls somewhere around authenticity, satisfaction and an easy ability to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Every word I’ve written here is part of the project, and all the words I haven’t written yet, every pedal stroke and every daydream about riding my bike. You’re working on it with me, and you didn’t even know it.
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