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Riding on empty (19 days till “The Ride”)

June 4, 2012

   With only 19 days left till the big Ride, I have lost a week of practice to my own selfishness and stupidity.

   Sure, some of the blame can be placed with the ridiculously inconsistent Buffalo weather. A week ago today, temperatures were approaching 90; today, we’ll be lucky to hit 60. When I walked out of the house for work this morning, the sun was glistening on the dew around my car, and I felt confident that I would finally get back on Greeny later this evening. As soon as I hit the highway, the rain began. This time, I can’t let it dampen my spirits – I’ll just have to get all my week’s chores done tonight so I can concentrate on nothing but riding the rest of the week.

   Seven days ago, it was so hot and humid, I couldn’t even think without breaking a sweat. That was why I was doubly proud of myself for heading out on Greeny on my own for the first time. I had made a date to spend some time with my sister, Dee, down at her place, which also happens to be my parents’ house about two blocks away. The thickness of the air made it impossible to do anything with my annoyingly curly hair, so I just tossed it up in a clip, saving myself at least 20 minutes of preparation time. Since I was on schedule and had time on my hands, there was no excuse for avoiding a solo ride again. I was surprised with how at ease I was with pedaling away from the safety of my driveway, but I had no choice but to take charge because nobody was around to serve as my crossing guard as I approached each street or to catch me if I fell this time. This has always been the best way for me to learn – throw me in, and I’ll swim. Sinking is not an option.

   Feeling confident, I decided to relax the death grip on the handlebars and to really enjoy riding. The strong, warm breeze was exhilarating as it pushed at my back, but it was thick and oppressive when I had to battle it blowing into my face. The 90-degree temperatures and sun beating down upon my shoulders felt liberating, as it does each year. While this past winter wasn’t as bitter and snowy as in years past, the first notion that summer is finally here is always so refreshing.

   As I traveled along, I experimented with looking side-to-side, coasting without pedaling and approaching intersections slowly and easing on the brakes instead of just coming to a dead stop when I hear a car coming. I also attempted to change gears with my right hand, but it was impossible for me to keep balance while moving my fingers. At this point, I cannot fathom how I am going to successfully do anything while biking if it involves me taking even one finger off the handlebar. The first time I did that was a few weeks ago, and it was instinctive because some of my hair blew into my face, and the tickle automatically drew my left hand. I ended up on my back a few seconds later. Today, when I felt a similar tickle, I gripped the handlebars harder and did all I could to move the hair without using a hand. I’m sure I looked ridiculous riding along, my lips curled to one side so I could aim my breath toward the offending lock.

   Today, I’m hiding inside from the drizzle and recalling the pride that swelled inside last week as I lugged the bike back up the porch stairs, having made an entire trip without requiring assistance, and I worry that my hiatus has done permanent damage … that I’ll be starting over, in essence. The adage about not forgetting once you learn has to be true, otherwise how would these 5-year-olds whizzing around me be able to do it? I just hope the awesome feeling of independence I experienced last week doesn’t fade back to fear.

   So, where was I this past week if not on my bike? Lost in worry-land, it seems. I have the unfortunately habit of letting life get to me to the point where the feelings of depression are debilitating. When I’m in my right mind, as I am today, it seems ridiculous that I allow myself to be overcome with such emotions that I cannot even get out of bed in the morning. Weighing heavy on my mind lately has been the possibility of not having a job come October. My current position is grant-funded, and while the organization is in the running for a larger grant around the same time the current one expires, there are no guarantees. I have nobody else to blame because when the position was created two years ago, I jumped at it knowing full well that it could disappear just as quickly. But the work – preventing youth substance abuse – has consumed much of my time since 2007, so the chance to work on the issues full time was too exciting to pass up. So watching the time tick away on this chance has been heartbreaking. If the group receives the new grant, I will be leading the charge for the next five to 10 years. If not, I will be unemployed.

   The past month has been extremely discouraging. I’ve been hoping for the best but planning for the worst, so I have applied for more than 30 jobs. So far, I’ve been turned down for five and heard nothing about the rest. One of those five actually included a live interview, and I bombed it. Subconsciously, I believe it was because I knew there was no way I could work in a place where I would have to park underground. Just the thought makes me hyperventilate. I would never survive in a city such as New York or D.C., as a motorist anyway. I won’t even pull into a parking space unless I won’t have to back out of it later.

   I experienced the best way to travel in New York City when I was invited to the Tyra Banks Show in March 2009 to accept a full-ride scholarship to attend Capella University to obtain my MBA. It was the total star treatment – landing at LaGuardia Airport, finding a black-suit clad chauffeur holding a placard emblazoned with my name, being escorted to a luxurious town car, and exiting said town car outside the hotel without having to find parking. Heaven!

   While a non-disclosure clause forbids me from writing about the process of being on the show, I can attest that it was an overwhelming experience to sit in the same room as the supermodel as she praised me and four other mothers who desired to return to school so that we could improve the lives of our children. With parenthood being my first priority, it felt great to hear someone tell the nation that I was doing a good job.

   Another career opportunity included a great position that would have allowed me to return to the newspaper editing field, but it was in the Finger Lakes region of New York – a two hour’s drive from home. Until Billy graduates in three years, I’m staying in Western New York, so I had to let this opportunity pass.

   One would think that with a newly acquired MBA that finding a position would be a little easier, but no. Many would blame the Western New York economy, but I have to stay here for my family, so I have to work within it. There are many jobs available, but matching my acquired skills with what’s out there is proving to be a challenge. It is especially discouraging to be turned down after being informed that I am “overqualified,” as if I didn’t know that as I swallowed my pride and hit “send” on the online job application. I fear my cover letters are beginning to sound desperate, and I’m resisting the urge to write, “Just give me a chance!” as a headline.

   Unfortunately, when I get upset about these major issues, my spirit is pretty much killed for the day, and I become lethargic. Lately, these days have been turning into weeks, and other areas of my life are beginning to suffer. The “it could always be worse” chant becomes drowned out with “when will it get better?” and I lose focus on the important matters. Great family? Check. Great boyfriend? Check. Great job (for now, anyway)? Check. Good health? That’s a big check.

   I have to get out of my head and back onto the bike.

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