(via Alright, I’m Wrong: On Finding Meaning On Two Wheels)
This weekend, I (leisurely) rode my bicycle around 60-70 miles. I am consistently amazed at how good it feels to not take it too seriously, to slow down and enjoy everything there is to see; the joy of being on a bicycle and just enjoying life. I was recently introduced to the Ride Journal, a really neat (and visually stunning) journal dedicated to bicycling. I wrote a piece for them but figured I’d post it here, in case anyone was interested.
On Finding Meaning On Two Wheels
By Andrew Lapham Fersch
Two years ago I was at a bit of an impasse in my life. I was a teacher who was in a job I loved, yet still felt that I wasn’t making a large enough contribution to the world. I just wasn’t sure what I could do with my time, as I knew I wanted to donate time and heart above money. I initially looked at programs for children over the summer, something I’ve done in the past, but it didn’t feel exactly right. My heart and soul (and time) are dedicated to young people for ten months of the year, I knew that I needed to do something that would be meaningful that would also allow for some solitude, for some meaningful introspection. So I thought about what I love. I love to write, I love to read, I love hiking, I love baking, I love yoga. And I searched, finding many experiences were possible around those things I love, but not feeling that any of them were right for me. I wanted something larger, something that I could do on my own but still use it as a manner for hopefully inspiring others. And I found it one day while searching online.
The American Lung Association does a yearly cross country ride dubbed the Big Ride Across America. It’s one of several charities that do a ride of this sort, but it was one that spoke to me the most, for personal reasons, and because of what I was reading from people who had gone on the same ride. The general consensus was that it was a well-oiled machine of a fundraiser, and an incredibly meaningful experience. In order to participate, one was expected to raise $7000 for the ALA. It was late September, the school year just began, and I realized that this could be much more than a meaningful summer experience, it could be something that I worked with the children on for the entire school year.
In the Fall and Winter, through our class, and through coaching Cross Country, students helped me learn about the ALA and Lung Disease. They helped me fundraise and design shirts to sell. They encouraged me and encouraged the ride. In the Spring, some started to go on training rides with me, and during Track and Field coaching, some members of the team would join after practice for a little part of my much longer training rides. With two months to go, fundraising was going well, the goal would clearly be met. One child though came up with an idea. She had recently found out that she’d be expected to attend summer school, a proposition few children would look at positively. Instead of being upset or complaining, she immediately came up with an idea; I should video tape the whole ride, and the summer school students would follow it, giving me suggestions on what to do and asking questions along the way.
Before leaving for the ride, I started making videos of my training on a Flip Video camera. I did very little editing, openly sharing my feelings about the experience; walking everyone watching through my entire experience. My fundraising, my physical training, my excitement and, occasionally, my trepidation. Before I knew it, it was time to ship my bike to Seattle and hop on a plane to get started.
Three thousand three hundred miles (and over fifty videos, a hundred interviews with locals, and hours of video later), much about me had changed. I learned that I could set a goal and meet it, even if it felt impossible at times. I learned about the kindness of strangers every single day during the ride. I learned that, if taken a day at a time, there truly is nothing that we aren’t able to accomplish in our lives. I made friends I’ll have for the rest of my life and I was able to connect with young people in a meaningful was throughout the whole process. And all I need to do was take a bike ride.
Every ride I take reminds me of this experience, reminds me of the kindness of the world, and the freedom that you can feel while riding. It reminds me that we are able to accomplish far more than we imagine we can, we just have to be willing to take a step in the right direction, or in this case, a pedal.
Andrew Lapham Fersch. I expect to pass through this life but once. www.AndrewFersch.com / www.AlrightImWrong.com.