35

I’m 35 today.

It’s a weird feeling, arriving at an age that suggests established adulthood when my life resembles a never-ending vortex of chaos mixed with a good measure of underachievement. 35 suggests an age when people generally have grown into themselves and their decisions; when life stabilizes, at least temporarily. When you feel good about most things that you’ve done; when you make enough to afford small luxuries and most things fit into place. Or, at least that’s how I imagined it.

Instead, I am 35 today and having only been behind the wheel of a car once, I feel like I’m in a F-1 race, drunk to the point where decisions are confusing and laborious, trying to figure out how to drive. I’m technically, miraculously, still in the race, but I’m not sure what lap I’m on, when we’re supposed to stop, or what we’re all racing away from. Given the circumstances, however, I suppose I could be doing a lot worse.

I say that without allowing myself the luxury of being grateful for things that my friends tell me I should take into consideration; that I’m not, for example, a homeless convicted sex offender or a crack addict turning tricks to support her habit. I am aware that my life could be much worse, but I also wonder what it says about my friends’ perceptions of me that they revert to such extreme examples. Couldn’t they choose less desperate hypotheticals?

That’s not to say that they’re wrong. Despite the fact that the bottom fell out of my life recently – or perhaps because of it – my current life can only be described, for better or for worse, as unexpected. It’s not cycling or lifting, but CrossFit, that has become that thing I do to keep my mind off of everything else. And because I need to keep it a daily practice to keep those black dogs at bay, the workouts and WODs have led, to, of all things, preparing batches of broccoli and chicken breast twice a week.

 Cleans gone wrong.

Cleans gone wrong.

 The birthday menu.

The birthday menu.

I had always seen meal prepping as too rigid and restricting given my desire to be perceived as easy-going and flexible. Who wants to be around someone who is so Type A and neurotic about their food, I thought. Who wants to eat the same thing every day for lunch and dinner? Who is humorless enough to choke down chicken breast twice a day? And then I became one of those people.

meal prep

Let’s be clear; that’s not to say I actually eat well. I follow up that chicken and broccoli with ice cream and potato chips on a daily basis, which means that I am only trying to make up for my otherwise shitty diet at meal times. I call it balance.

Yet, my best efforts at self-sabotage via a half-assed diet have ironically resulted in arriving at 35 looking better than I ever have. Like a cheaper form of liposuction, CrossFit erased the cellulite I couldn’t get rid of unless I was at least 3 kg lighter than my current weight. Everything got tighter. I grew lats and my back got brawny. I actually look like I lift things with my arms and not just my legs. It feels pretty good.

coffee and a cookie
 My furriest bestie.

My furriest bestie.

But the best part is that I have people to lean on when times get tough, who will listen and nod and give me a hard time. The same friends that tell me that while I might feel like the emotional version of nuclear winter, “at least you don’t look that way.” The ones that get coffee with me, and sometimes McDonald’s, and who will stay on the phone whether I’m sobbing or laughing. Whatever my underachievements or my failings at constructing an age-appropriate life, those friends remain a sign that I might not be doing it all wrong.

I’m 35 today. Still drunk behind the wheel of that F-1 race car. Still confused, still figuring it out. But things could be worse.

Here’s to another lap, another year of keeping the rubber side down.

Surviving through CrossFit

A couple days after I published my last post, I got my heart broken.

It wasn’t the usual breakup because I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone as intensely. It wasn’t because the feelings weren’t mutual; and so, it completely obliterated me.

The first two weeks, I couldn’t function. To be honest, I don’t really remember much of those two weeks, but for the next month, I woke up with a nervous pain in my chest that would explode into wailing sobs throughout the day. I lost my appetite and stopped eating. I wanted to disappear. Life ceases to have meaning after you lose someone you thought was the love of your life. In a lot of ways, I still don't see the point in it.

It would be nice to say that it drove me back to the bike, but it didn’t. I threw myself into CrossFit instead.

crossfit yoyogi 1

Maybe I was doing it because I had nothing else to do, and the bike had its own share of burdens. Maybe it was a convenient distraction that I’d already paid for. Maybe, in the end, I kept going because he had gotten me into it. But I had fallen in love with CrossFit by myself, and those first few weeks, it saved me. The searing of straining muscles, the feeling of pain reduced to numbness from exhaustion and exertion, the suffocation, the sensation that I might be drowning. It all mirrored my state outside the CrossFit box but somehow, there, there was catharsis.

I started going to classes every day the box was open. I switched classes so that I could stay afterwards to practice everything I couldn’t do. When the memories ripped through whatever healing I’d managed, I practiced pull-up negatives and push-ups at home. Last weekend, I doubled up and went to two classes in one day.

It sounds crazy, I know, or at least, excessive. Overcompensation for a lost love and a directionless life. Seeking redemption from emotional trauma through physical pain. Or worse, a self-imposed punishment for a perceived general lack of worthiness. All embarrassing ways of coping with loss and projections of internal strife.

kettlebells and belts
plates

But isn’t that how we all survive? You put yourself through solitary trials until one day you don’t wake up every day wishing you hadn’t. Until you reach a point where whatever you’re doing, day in and day out, is less of a coping mechanism, and the desire to do that thing or activity overshadows the frantic need to do it. Until that raw, open wound of true heartbreak becomes a more manageable – though lifelong – hurt.

I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m trying.

New Year's Resolutions and Getting Happy

I’d like to say I’ve been waiting to write until most people have either forgotten their New Year’s resolutions or, if they haven’t, are most definitely regretting them. It’s one of those things that you don’t realize until you get older; that instead of hopeful projections of what you’d like to accomplish by the next year, with age, New Year’s resolutions gradually turn into last desperate chances to fix your life before it’s entirely too late.

Resistant to adding more failure into my life than there already is, I haven’t made any resolutions in the past few years. But, like deadlines for the planning-impaired, it’s always when you’re least expecting it that things creep up on you.

Which is to say: it’s been a hell of a year so far, but such a good one.

postcard to jwj

A lucky break in December landed me a full-time job as a virtual litigation attorney. Eight years after graduating from law school, I am finally getting paid to do substantive legal work. A chance freelance editing gig has led to a great friendship; the kind where you get concerned if one doesn’t text back in an hour and plans for brunch always turn into 6-hour hang out sessions. A week into the Giro, I’m more worried about discovery deadlines and surviving the day’s WOD. That’s not to say I don’t still love bikes and pro cycling. Just that worrying about riding isn’t much of a priority anymore.

brunch
 Thanks for the deadlift bruises, CrossFit!

Thanks for the deadlift bruises, CrossFit!

Life is different, and I’m happy. Which is – to be honest – an incredibly weird feeling. “Different” and, in particular, “happy,” seem like things that require planning or, at minimum, some type of mental resolve towards a higher goal. I seem to have lucked into both with the simple passage of time into a new year. And that sometimes gives me pause; does my lack of planning mean that this is all temporary?

In these moments when my anxiety suggests I’m living a life I don’t deserve, I like to remember those New Year’s resolutions I’ve made. The ones that have been derailed by pastries or conveniently forgotten within six weeks. They’re a nice reminder that even with the best intentions, planning doesn’t guarantee the existence of a situation or condition, much less its relative permanence. For that, I’ve learned, you just have to work at it.

And because it’s a life that feels genuinely good, most of the time, and healthy, and maybe because it’s not a self-imposed New Year’s resolution that feels like a desperate attempt to get my shit together, I have been. It’s not easy all the time, but it’s the kind of life I'm working to hold on to.

[More stories coming soon, I promise!]

Bye, 2017

Like the Sram video I posted about yesterday, 2017 just wasn't very good. 

I can't say I'm sad to see it leave, but should thank 2017 for a year of forced growth, good friends, new ideas, better eyebrows, and more quality time with my dog. 

me and postcard from sage
me and kaede

Here's to a new, bigger, and better year!!!

Everyone is White at Sram

Sram put out this video a few days ago in an attempt to both be funny and different.

It failed. Hugely.

It didn’t just fail because it wasn’t funny from anybody’s point of view, or because the lack of regard for details (no one could tell that that was an unlit cigarette). It didn’t even fail because it was generally cringe-worthy and an example of why you shouldn’t ask professional athletes to attempt to act.

It failed because not one person in that video is a minority, and nobody noticed.

In another, earlier year, I may have let it pass. Cycling, after all, has always been dominated by white athletes, white fans, and white amateurs. I can’t recall a single Rapha Continental rider who wasn’t white, and a quick look at the Rapha website today shows that nothing has changed. When the cycling industry made the push to include more women, it ended up with women, just no minority women. Yet, in a year when the “President” of the United States picked a fight with minority athletes, when neo-Nazis and white supremacists have killed innocent people, when racial tensions and discord seem as high as ever, it apparently still wasn’t enough for Sram to take notice. This video was nevertheless approved by the ladder of executives at Sram as suitable material for their public relations campaign. Worst of all, someone actually got paid for this.

I understand that the best cyclocross athletes may not include minorities (a bigger issue that goes beyond this particular post), but would it have killed Sram to find a minority employee at the Zipp factory to play a part in this video? Or worse, were there none to find?

Or, is this a statement by a global cycling parts manufacturer that minorities have no part in cycling and the cycling industry?

I’d like to give Sram the benefit of the doubt, but question the values of a company that can’t recognize its own lack of diversity. To be fair, it’s not only Sram; most companies in the cycling industry fail to include minorities in their American or European marketing campaigns. Only when minorities are a majority – for example, in Asian countries – are non-white models and riders ever mentioned or featured. On a less corporate level, I’ve heard laughter in response to a Rapha employee calling the predominantly Dominican Republician GS Mengoni team in New York City, as being “too brown” to include him.

Whenever I mention that I’m trying to get back into riding, a non-white friend who used to ride as much as I did will always ask, half jokingly, why I’d want to do such a thing.

“Why do you want to hang out with racists?” He’ll say.

“…I still like it,” I respond.

I have no other defense, and this video only seems to prove my friend right. Nor am I optimistic that it’ll become more inclusive. But maybe, eventually, if we scream loud enough for long enough, the cycling industry will take notice, and get it right.