In two weeks from today, I will begin a journey that I’ve wanted to take for as long as I can remember: Biking Across Kansas.
As a child growing up in Nickerson, each summer brought scores of cyclists through my mostly quiet and uneventful town. Every year I would wait, and watch, as people did a seemingly impossible thing – power themselves across the state, or even the country, on their bicycles. In the days when my only mode of transportation, the idea of getting on my bike and going as far as I wanted to go was a very romantic and inviting idea. My friends and I would talk about the trips we would take, and how one day we, too, would pack our bikes and ride across the entire county.
But this is an old and worn tale. Childhood dreams rarely touch reality. Like so many others, my dreams changed. I needed to make my mark on the world, make money, build a career, get married, have children and do all those normal things that normal people do.
But I never forgot the way my blood rushed when those bikers came through town. And, I suppose, at some point I realized just how pointless the dreams of adulthood are compared to the dreams of a child. I also realized just how few of my adult dreams ever really stood a chance of becoming true. I’m 41 years old and I know I’ll never be rich. I raised my children, and did reasonably well. But I could’ve done better and wish I had. I was married for 20 years, but a crisis of identity led me another way. I tried to build a career, but most often the track of your career is decided by something other than your will.
So I am here, untethered and uncertain of where the future will take me, looking to latch on to whatever dreams of my youth I think I still have a chance to make real. This is where all the adults with there real dreams and real ambitions and grown up ideas can laugh out loud.
I will ride my bike 502 miles, over eight days, across the whole state that I’ve called home my entire life. Or at least I will try — and that brings us to the title, cycle of anxiety. I consistently ride long distances, and don’t struggle with it at all. But for some reason, I’m worried and anxious. I don’t know if I’ll be able to complete the entire week, and I worry that I’ll feel like a failure. While I might take a long ride on the weekend, I worry if I can do it day after day, all while sleeping in a tent or dealing with Kansas’ sometimes unpleasant weather. And I think I worry that if I fail, I’ll have to admit to myself that I’ve failed my childhood dreams just as deeply as I’ve failed the dreams of my adulthood. And if I do that, I wonder if I’ll hold out hope for dreams ever again.
But I will try, and I’m going to do everything I can to finish it. Because I remember those days so long ago, and I need to believe that if I pedal hard enough, or if I can push through the pain, soreness and discomfort I will find myself on the other side of something beautiful.