‘Live for the moment’, we’re told. ‘Don’t dwell on the past’, the sensible advice tells us. ‘Don’t look back in anger’, as Noel Gallagher and Oasis were forever reminding me in my formative and impressionable years.
I happen to think this living-in-the-moment business is a bit overrated; I am occasionally prone to looking back (in anger, or otherwise) and analysing, reminiscing, and generally making links (existent or not) between things that happened in the dim and distant past, and things that are happening now.
(I feel like there’s a clever word to describe this that I can’t put my finger on. It’ll come to me.)
Anyway, in the spirit of looking-back-to-see-how-various-decisions-changed-my-life (catchy, eh?), I sometimes like to cast my mind back to a time before I was a cyclist. We’re only talking about 6 or 7 years ago, when I was in my early thirties, and when I was not only unencumbered by this costly, time-consuming, life-affirming cycling obsession of mine, but I also had no kids.
One single questions leaps out at me, like a startled salmon into the grasp of a hungry bear: “What the hell did I do with my time?”
Put me in a leather chair, shine a bright light into my face, and quiz me aggressively about what hobbies I had, or how I chose to fill my evenings and weekends back in those halcyon days, and I’d be startlingly lacking in any kind of plausible explanation. I suppose I went to the pub or out for a meal, watched a bit of TV, maybe spent a bit of time at friends’ houses from time to time, but that leaves hour upon hour of pressure free leisure time which it seems, for a lack of evidence to the contrary, I spent doing precisely bugger all!
Compare and contrast.
Here I am in my late thirties: I’ve got a job that’s more pressurized and time-consuming than it’s ever been, two kids under the age of four, a wife, a house, a blog (for heaven’s sake, as if I haven’t got enough to do…someone had better be reading this!) and of course there’s the cycling.
We’re talking four or five hours a week riding the bike, maybe an hour or so tweaking it and cleaning it, more time than I’d care to measure talking about it and thinking about it, a couple of bike related blog posts a week…
Is it any wonder I’ve developed sizeable bags under my tired eyes?
Oh dear, I appear to be feeling sorry for myself…back to the point: how might things have turned out if I hadn’t stumbled across cycling as an acceptable way to spend my time and money?
Perhaps with all that extra time at my disposal I might have progressed even further up the greasy career ladder. Maybe I’d have made Chief Exec.?!
Maybe I’d had filled all that time by having more kids…I could’ve been up to four or five by now!?
I might have directed my time and energy towards my humble house – after all, they do say an Englishman’s home is his castle – and built extensions, conservatories, and a landscaped garden with a water feature, a fountain and a goldfish.
(Pretty rock n’ roll eh?)
Is it possible I’d have found a different hobby? Golf, perhaps?
(Right, this is getting ridiculous…Golf, for goodness sake!)
Realistically, it was clearly only a matter of time before I found that cycling was my true path in life. When you look at it that way, all those years spend doing precisely bugger all could be better described as my ‘resting years’. I was obviously (or sub-consciously) resting my legs and saving my energy for the second half of my life, which I was always going to spend clocking up mileage, writing about clocking up mileage, having children, getting married, and desperately compromising my principles on a daily basis in the name of career progression.
Which begs the question: was all that resting worth it?
This brings to mind all those stories you read about the life of a pro cyclist, and the way that their lives are broken down into very specific functions. In other words: ride-eat-rest-repeat.
You hear about guys like the popular American rider George Hincapie, who was apparently the all-time master when it came to resting. After a race or a training ride he would set himself up on the settee with anything he might possibly need over the next few hours – food, drink, phone, entertainment – within arms-reach, lest he expend even a single kilo-joule of energy more than was absolutely necessary.
Now, anyone with anything approaching a streak of laziness can, in principle, see the appeal of this lifestyle; simply go out and ride hard, then get home and, under strict orders, do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
But then you hear stories of riders with wives and kids, who can’t run around in the garden with their children, or give them piggy backs, or even come along on a family day out, for fear of expending precious energy living like a real human being because they are under orders to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Looking at it like that, and with all the evidence from my own version of ‘the resting years’, I’ll keep the fun and chaos of kids, wife, house, job, bike and blog every time.
(I didn’t want to be Chief Exec. anyway!)