Thursday, April 11, 2013

Here I Am

Fifty. It feels weird to say I'm that old. When I look back at my impressions of quinquagenarians when I was much younger, I certainly got it wrong on how it would feel to be this age. So far, it feels just like being 40, only ten years later!

For one thing, I yet have to scratch away my perennial itch for travel. I blame it all on having read "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss in the corner of a dimly lit library when I was an impressionable little kid. Later, I moved up the Dewey Decimal System to pore over atlases, travel books and National Geographic magazine. The internet now fuels my obsession — Google Earth is like cybercrack to me.

Lately, I've been reminiscing about the epic bike ride I took ten years ago, when I pedalled close to 5,000 kilometres from Vancouver to Ottawa. A decade does not seem so distant, but in digging through some of my memorabilia, it's amazing how much has changed — back then I didn't have a digital camera or GPS (they were either frail and crappy, or bulky and expensive), Facebook did not exist, and bicycle touring was definitely not as popular. I had such an incredible time on that trip; while many of my previous cycling adventures have started and ended with a plane ride, it was the first time I flew somewhere far away and rode all the way back home.

A flood of other memories come back to me thinking about that adventure in 2003: I had thought up the journey as a celebration of turning 40 and my 25th year of living in Canada. I was basking in the sunshine of the mid-summer of my life, as things were working out extremely well — I had awesome friends, finished building a house, and I was doing some exciting work with great clients — in general, I felt useful and that I belonged in time and space. I booked a ticket to Vancouver to leave after Canada Day, psyched up to discover the rest of this country that has given me so much opportunity. Then a dark cloud arrived a couple of weeks before my intended departure, my mom disclosed that she had breast cancer and had to go in for an operation in early July. I postponed leaving until after her surgery and knowing she would be alright.

Fast-forward to today, and save for the past few years of tumult in the financial world and some minor physical wear-and-tear on my body, I feel more or less just as lucky. While compiling some recent examples of my work to update my portfolio I paused to think how fortunate I've been to have done some good stuff I can actually be proud of. Being self-employed these past 23 years has been an exercise in fiscal discipline and overcoming self doubt, often stressing about where the next dollar would come from if I didn't do a job well. I guess I can quietly assure myself that I haven't been incompetent in the last ten years. But best of all, I am happy that my mom remains cancer-free.

So here I am. Still itching for the open road, and I'm yearning to launch myself on another cycling adventure. I'm not looking to retrace steps or relive old experiences — I know there is still so much out there, and in me, left to discover. Although I've gone on a bicycle tour practically every year in the last 20 years, to inspire myself this year I scanned some of my fuzzy old Ektachrome slides from that epic ride a decade ago and set it to music that was in my head at the time — Vancouver had just won the bid for the 2010 Olympics and first heard it on their promotional video, the theme from the animated movie 'Spirit'

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