I told this "friend" QUIT. (I say friend in quotations because this is a person I do not actually know via any other avenue except for Facebook. I am not sure exactly the connection but when I purged "friends" a few months ago, Eleanor (not her real name) remained.) Actually I said, "QUIT...I did 3 years ago and have never looked back. Life is way too short not to live a life you're passionate about." Life is not only short....it is really, really, really short.
Today Adrien, Jock and Max left St. Moritz and headed to Zurich. They leave very early tomorrow morning for the Opening Ceremony in London. As I hugged Adrien so tightly and whispered how proud I was of him, I took a deep breath and inhaled the moment, never wanting to forget the hug, the smell of Adrien's clean clothes, the rain that was falling lightly. This is what living passionately feels like. I went from a sterile cubicle in Las Vegas to hugging the first Rwandan Olympic mountain biker. To know I have had a very small part in helping this young man achieve this pie in the sky dream, that is all I need. Money cannot buy you...that.
Those of you who have read my blogs in the past know one of my all time favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption. I was reminded of this movie recently from a dear friend of mine. One of Eleanor's other friends, probably a real friend, someone she actually knows, with all good intention commented, "It could be worse, you could have no job." Would that really be a worse thing? Ironically, in the next sentence this same friend says, "....you should come to SF and open a bakery." Hmmm....Eleanor's true passion? Her gift? Her authentic life? But, there will always be the life you currently lead that needs to get left behind and it is never easy to leave what you know for the unknown. The walls of institutions are comforting in a claustrophobic, life sucking way.
There are days which are difficult, most days are difficult. Choices I made three and a half years ago had ramifications. I currently make a quarter of what I used to in the corporate world. I will probably never have enough money to retire and God knows, time is flying by for this Mukecuru (what the Team affectionately calls me...means old lady...with respect). I no longer have a home. I have a 13 year old SUV with 240,000 miles on it and everything I own fits inside of it. Yet, on Monday when all of us were in Livigno, Italy, about 30 miles from St. Moritz, Switzerland, to get pizza I realized how having "things" actually makes me anxious. Livigno is a nice enough Italian town with an excellent take out pizza place but it is also a tax free zone. It was the European version of Branson, Missouri (sorry my southern Missouri friends). Outlet store after outlet store with the same items in every location which you don't need any way. You just don't need stuff, unless the stuff is what you use to fill the void of not pursuing the life you were meant to live. A closet full of clothes bought with the credit card you have maxed out keeps you living the life you may not want. It is never the stuff in the end, it is the places and people, the memories you take with you. I have ridden the roads of Switzerland and Eritrea. I have friends all over the world with such amazing lives. And today I hugged an Olympian.
This April when I did my tax return I had made less money than I did in 1986 waiting tables in college. I also have traveled to most of Sub Saharan Africa, went to Eritrea, which I will write about soon, and am currently staying in Switzerland. In two weeks I will be watching Adrien at his event in the UK. I am going to the Olympics in London!
When I return to Rwanda I will head to Brazil for the Tour of Rio the end of August and then back to the US the beginning of September. Next year it looks like I will start the year assisting the Ethiopian Cycling Federation with their marketing, media and nutrition programs for their athletes. I have never been to Ethiopia.
On June 13, 2008, I wrote in my journal three things which were important to me. This was actually an exercise assigned by my therapist at the time. I wrote down:
I want to travel
I want to do something around my love of cycling
I want to help people
I never knew the "how" but I trusted the catalyst would present itself given an open mind, an open heart and a little bit of fearlessness to answer the call when it came.
I do not tell my story for the people who are happy with their lives exactly as they are. A lot of people, probably most people do not want to see the world and live this far outside the box. However, I guarantee, in those alone moments, maybe in the middle of the night when you cannot sleep there is something you want to do which you continue to suppress. There is something that pulls at you, a dream unrealized, a dream not even expressed.
I was fortunate in some ways. Even though I could look back with regret at some of the people and relationships which were collateral damage in my desire to live my life on my terms, I do not because the people who matter most, the opinions I still value, the relationships I still hold sacred will not let me. I was reminded of this with an email...the end of which had another excerpt from Shawshank Redemption:
I am thankful people I loved let me fly.