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June 28, 2015

I talked my eldest daughter into helping me coax an old bike out the shed yesterday. It’s a bike I purchased in 1999 from some of the proceeds of a rather lucrative batch of dot-com stock options with the highest of high hopes and optimism about a year before completing her adoption papers. It’s the bike I was riding in the days leading up to the cross-continental journey to bring her home.

A few years ago, I lowered the seat on this bike so she could ride it. I had kept it as a spare after injuring it in a minor accident with a roller blader along the Niagara Escarpment in 2007. It was still at the shop for repairs when I left for vacation in Lake Placid a few weeks later. I replaced it with a nicer make and model, a Marin hybrid, which made the trip with me and became my faithful companion through the peak of my athletic period.

It is hard for me to write about these things.

At the same time, it’s a disservice to myself to pretend that they never happened. Over the next few years, I logged over 10,000 km on that Marin, many of them with my youngest in tow. There is this concept of resetting to zero, to steel and brace yourself for the mastery of something new. It’s the trick of many a successful technical writer. The Marin was eventually replaced with another Trek, but it never really took flight and had at most 20 km on it before I passed it along to its next owner.

We took the old Trek out of the shed to have a look at it, with fresh eyes. My time off for good behaviour has granted me the unexpected gift of new perspective on my old ways. These memories have their place and time, but they are better left in a scrapbook. They have a way of wreaking a special kind of havoc on my easily cluttered mind. The time has come to park and stow them long-term for clarity. I need the shorter-term space for nearer term things.

In the shed, we found my helmet too. Before mounting my old bicycle, I looked it over and rolled it a bit to make sure it was structurally sound enough not to collapse from the weight of me. It’s at least 16 years old. Having its seat lower to the ground is important to me right now. While I have increased the range of motion in my hips in recent months, it hasn’t been a huge improvement.

I can see clearly that the tires aren’t holding air any more, and may not be so capable. They are also looking rather thin. The brakes are rusted, but they work.

My eldest and I discussed the matter at length, and agreed the next step would be a tune-up for the bicycle. The bike rack is long gone from the car, and it’s about 3 km round trip to a decent shop. She would walk the bike and I would take the scooter.

One block into the trip, she convinced me that it wasn’t my finest idea.

She successfully pitched it as a fool’s errand and scored a direct hit, because: “Mom!! You’re riding the scooter?! You know?! The bike is not really a very good idea!!”

With tears in my eyes, we turned back. I got home first, went into my room, locked the door, and cried for about an hour. Just whose voice was I hearing, any way, and all because she didn’t want to go for a walk.

Here is something I have learned about myself over the years, after someone tactfully pointed it out to me. When I put my mind to something, Mastery is always both the prize and the goal. Nothing less will do.

I took an online data science course last week. I completed all the lectures and assignments in less than 24 hours. It’s a five-week course. I missed one question, which should give me a final grade between 99 and 100 per cent. The only thing I will remember in the long term is the question that I missed. It’s who I am.

I know that the thing that pre-occupies my thought must be addressed before other thoughts work their way into the queue and up the hierarchy of thought. That thing has almost always been a problem approaching its solution. Why specifically this bike then?

My old Trek? It’s also the bike that helped me close a chapter of tremendous loss and disappointment.

I suspect I am resetting to zero.


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