I recently sold a road bike to a friend of mine. His previous bike was ancient. I couldn't get the comparison out of my mind so I wrote this. Since the sale, the Surly had its back wheel stolen. So she truly has been forgotten, sadly.
It seems unfair to place these bikes side by side. They belong in different weight classes. Different social classes. Different eras. One rests weary on too many miles. Reliable but barely. Poor shifting, even poorer handling, a wobbler. The other waits restlessly- an infant in comparison. Needing to feel the pavement. Needing to lean into hairpin corners and fly up reveled climbs. Bred for precision. It’s hard to say goodbye to the steel frame of Mr. Reliable. Those were simpler times. When nickels and dimes had worth. However, acceptance is the only path as legs, lungs, and mind will garner the reward. One ride. That’s all it will take. Then old will be forgotten.
When I was sixteen years old, all of the athletes on my team were required to start blogs. The purpose was to keep donors in the loop with our lives. I remember thinking, ‘A blog? No way.’ I also remember thinking I had nothing important to say. I quickly found I loved writing these blogs and there was a lot I wanted to voice to the world- or at least the few people who actually read it. Over the last couple years, I have decided I’m extremely fond of words. In a world full of innovation and technology, moving ever faster- words slow things down. Nothing is more truthful than words on paper. They express scenes, emotion, feelings, and love better than any other outlet. There isn’t a replacement. The simplicity of this has drawn me in tightly.
Recently, I haven’t been able to use words a whole lot. Maybe I’ve had the chance but I’ve shied away from it. The words I’ve wanted to voice felt too soon. I felt as if I might disappoint others with my words. First there was the devastation of watching my dream of competing in the Olympics crumble. Not the good kind of crumble either, I prefer raspberry. No, I am talking about the crumbling of something that was in a very solid state before. The kind of crumble that needed a ton of force to make possible.
I am ever grateful for this brief moment in my life. This moment where everything I had worked for seemed to be coming to a close. It was humbling like nothing has been before- puberty is a close second. It was heart wrenching in a beautiful tragic kind of way. Looking back on it, there is no difference between the Ben who made the Olympics and the one who didn’t. The only difference was circumstances. Either way, I made myself vulnerable to the world and the failure which exists when one does this. I take a lot of pride in that because it can be absolutely terrifying. I’ve learned not to judge others on their successes but rather to applaud their willingness to put themselves in a place where failure is possible. These are the type of people I could speak with for hours.
In the end, I did compete in the Olympics. Not only that but I got to do it my way, with smiles and fist pumps and joy. All things that have been seriously lacking this year on my end. I was able to prove that I belonged on the World’s largest stage which is something I questioned throughout this tough season. I want to thank everyone who has supported me in life. The best part about the Olympics was getting to share it with everyone else. I received so much love over the last month from so many people. My phone was blowing up to the point where I couldn’t get anything done. For those of you who were able to watch me compete, thank you. I hope I was able to entertain you for a few minutes. I hope I was able to inspire someone out there.
From the outside looking in, this life I lead is a dream come true. I get to use “big words” like World Cup, World Championships, and Olympics in sentences. I tear up a little just writing that because as a kid I would have given anything for this. I get to travel the world and experience so many different cultures. These are great gifts, especially because I never was the most talented kid. I always had this underdog mentality, and that wasn’t a false identity- I truly was. This mentality made me scrappy as hell and willing to block out just about anything that wasn’t going to make me better in sport.
Sport gave me an outlet for my insane energy as a kid. It also gave me an identity when I so badly needed one. As a kid, I was clueless to how difficult this dream would become. The love I had for this sport was so pure. This was my only love and maybe that was unhealthy but it was also the greatest love ever, one which I would never in a million years take back.
The sacrifices seemed so easy once upon a time. Now I’m just not so sure. The truth is, I have lost that scrappiness when it comes to sport. Individual sports are tricky. They require so much self-focus. I’m a little worn out from focusing on myself. I would like to focus on others a lot more. I’ve changed and whether that is temporary or permanent- I have no idea. I think to keep doing this half-heartedly would be a travesty to all the years I gave this my all. I owe it to myself not to ignore this feeling and take a little time. I’m going to take a little time to clean out my life and figure out what’s important.
I want to share something with you. This is a letter written by my favorite musician, Lewis Del Mar. He wrote this down on a typewriter and I stumbled upon it about a month ago. I’ve read it every day since because I connected with this in a really meaningful way.
I was inspired so I decided to write down my own thesis. The rules by which I strive to live and create.
Moments are the greatest gift on earth. Find the people who light a spark in your heart and create these moments together. Never underestimate the importance of good people and deep laughter. Love deeply, give back to others, kill small talk. Ask important questions- find wholesome conversation. Speak the truth and accept failure as currency. Get outside, mountaintops have the greatest views. Life should never feel like a trap. Every decision is yours to keep. Emphasize the little things. Things like warm croissants, fresh black coffee, fluffy powder, pale ale, irrationally competitive card games, stellar dance moves, and climbing up into trees for no good reason. Live simply.
There is one last thing I want to say. I know some may not be pleased with this decision of mine or maybe it won’t make sense. This is the hardest part for me. The only pain I feel about this decision is when I think about my teammates, coaches, staff, and sponsors. Deep down I want to please everyone. I want everyone to be happy. Yet it cannot be at my own expense. Cheers - Ben B