"And in the morning when I rise,
One question that feels like the sun in my eyes:
Am I making the most of this life...?" -Brett Dennen
I have been talking a lot with people recently about new year's resolutions, wishes that for many never come to fruition, and the necessary connection between belief and action that makes the difference between success and failure.
As I sit here in the dawn of another new year, I can't help but look back and reflect. The last two years have been a turning point in my life. A threshold, if you will, between my past and my future.
2011 was all about hard decisions and coming to terms with accepting who I am and what I want out of life. It was the toughest year of my life so far, but out of that tough place I emerged stronger, wiser, more humble, more compassionate, and with a better acceptance of myself- the good and the bad, for better or for worse. My action of 2011 would have been self-discovery.
2012 was a night and day difference from 2011. My action of last year would have to be self-actualization. I knew what I wanted for my life, and I wasted no time making it a reality. I made the leap to fully pursue the dream of pro racing, and knew exactly the steps I needed to take to cross the threshold. One thing I know about myself is that I am determined. If I want something badly enough, I will make it happen, come hell or high water. And I did. I threw myself one hundred percent into training and racing, and it paid off. Five months after declaring that I was going to get my mountain bike pro license in two years, I qualified for the upgrade. I proved that I had what it takes athletically to have the privilege of racing on the pro circuit.
To top off all that, I somehow found myself with an amazing physical therapy job that allowed me a flexible schedule for racing, the healthiest and strongest year I have ever had both physically and mentally, an incredible support system of friends who had stood by me through the disaster of 2011, and a supportive boyfriend who understood my ambitions and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I really had it all.
Until I didn't. My racing season was like a runaway train- albeit a very successful one, it gained momentum and I ran with it. I was on the road constantly from April through September, and I threw every ounce of energy I had into my time on the bike. When the season finished with my last race at the end of September, the Whole Enchilada Enduro, I went down in a ball of flames. I finished fourth, but with fourteen (yes, 14) crashes and three broken ribs to show for it. I was lucky; it could have easily been much worse. But now I was forced to rest and over the next couple of months- this past fall- I was faced with the trail of wreckage left over from my whirlwind season. I threw myself into my dream, and at the end of the season I was standing at the door of an incredible opportunity. But I had neglected the rest of my life, and it was starting to show. I could sum up my entire life in one word: Trainwreck. When it came to bike racing, I was dialed. When it came to anything else, I didn't know which end was up.
The end of 2012 brought a lot of learning opportunities for me. I pretty much fell flat on my face in life, and laying there dazed I wondered what had happened. After I literally fell flat on my face at Enchilada, my boyfriend challenged me to do something I had never done before: stay there for awhile. At first, I was taken aback by his comment. I am really good at picking myself back up and jumping right back on the horse and charging ahead. It's what I do. I'm resilient. I can take a beating and keep on going. But this time, I knew it was different. It was time to slow down, stay flat on my face if you will, and reflect on what got me there so that I could learn from it and pick myself up a better person.
So I did. As I laid on my face for two months I realized that as successful as my year had been, there were things in life holding me back from being my best: the best athlete, the best therapist, the best partner, the best friend, the best person that I could be, living life the best that I was capable of. Some of the things were easy to see as I reflected. Some things I wasn't fully aware of, but I knew they were there and I was determined to find out what they were and stop them from stopping me. So for the past few months I have been just as dedicated to learning about the barriers inside me that were holding me back as I was dedicated for all of the rest of the year to my racing. I talked, I read, I wrote, I ran, I laughed, I cried, I sought advice from those I respect, I floundered and failed and fell on my face some more- and I listened, to those around me and to my heart. And I learned.
I learned that there is a LOT more to bike racing than just racing a bike. It is about relationships. It is about the connections made with people, finding inspiration from others, and discovering the inspiration that I can offer to others in return. It is about finding balance in the rest of my life so that when it comes time, I can buckle down and be laser-focused on my racing goals and not leave any loose ends to come crashing down when my season is over.
I learned what it means to live my life with compassion and integrity. I learned what it means to be fully present to those around me and that it is not a threat to my independence to let others in. I learned to not make assumptions about others' intentions and to not attach meaning to others' actions- this was probably the most influential bit of knowledge I have ever come upon. Sounds easy, but it's powerful. I learned to focus on living in the moment, not beating myself up for unintentional mistakes I have made in the past, and not worrying about what will happen in the future.
I learned that I don't have to be limited by decisions I made in the past, and by old habits and patterns that are easy for me to fall into. I learned that I can create my own reality- not just in my dreams and what I want for my life, but also in how I live my life day to day, moment to moment, because each moment is all that I have. What can I do with each moment that will reflect the person I want to be?
Now, I'm not saying I have it all together. I am certainly not perfect, and I'm not going to be. But I can accept that now. I can accept that I have fears, flaws, shortcomings- basically, that I am human. I can accept them, but I know that I don't have to let them hold me back. My awareness gained from my time spent on my face reflecting, seeking, and learning, has given me the confidence that I can create the life I want NOW, in each moment, and I truly believe that I am capable of doing it. As a good friend once told me, action proves belief. 2013 will be the year of self-improvement. It's time to put my money where my mouth is.