Thursday, January 20, 2011

Assembly Required

Recently, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time mulling over what my future may hold and if I am making decisions that in a few years I can look back on and be proud. These are things like am I actively trying to better myself, have I in the past week done something or said something to make someone smile and make their day just a little bit better and am I trying to accomplish my life-long ambitions? The majority of these thoughts have come when while building my touring bike at the third-hand bike co-op. A cool community oriented non-profit, which aims to help anyone who wants to ride a bike perform their own maintenance. As I was building and thinking I started comparing my life to piecing together my bike. And this is the conclusion to which I have arrived: life is more or less a hodgepodge of decisions, reactions and feelings smashed together to form a cohesive blob we call our lives.

So not only am I planning this bike trip for the upcoming summer I also have recently applied to graduate school at Ohio State. This is something I have been trying to accomplish for the past few years and have never had the guts to do it, but this shaping up to be a life changing year so why not throw this into the mix as well. Heck, maybe I will even go out and get a tattoo. After all every passing moment is a chance to turn everything around, so why not swing for the fences.

p.s. I will be open to suggestions for the name of this beautiful new stead that is picture above. Send to me plz.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Follow Your Dreams Young Man, Go West

Dreams, everybody has them, but not everyone is bold enough to live them. People fail to live out there dreams because they grow content with their daily routine, they are scared of the unknown, or they just lack passion and drive to accomplish them. Passion in my opinion is the most important reason people do not accomplish their goals. Passion can turn the most mundane object, place or activity into a spectacle to behold. When you have passion you realize every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around and that anything is possible in this most unpredictable life. While I write this I am reflecting on all of the things I have accomplished in my 27 years in this world and I have to admit I have done some pretty amazing things. I never imagined I would live in Prague, climb mountains, bike nearly 3,500 miles in a year, after all I was just a simple boy hailing from small town, USA. But that passion has driven me to great accomplishments and far off places, so why stop now?

So this coming year I will be quitting my job and riding my bike across the country. What?!?! Yep that is right, throw everything away, wipe the slate clean and start over. Quit your job, leave your friends, put your future in jeopardy for what? A bike ride? No, a dream and all of the excitement, possibilities, and the unknown.

Since I was about 16 or 17 I had dreamed about one day riding my bike across the country. The usual responses to that are "are you out of your mind," "you mean ride a motorcycle right?," and the most common response of a chuckle followed by a bewildered look and then quickly changing the subject. This is to be expected I guess. This is certainly not a normal dream, a practical one or even something people would think of as a "good time," but then again I am not a normal person or practical and I definitely don't get enjoyment in activities that most people consider a "good time." For the longest time I even thought this dream was unattainable, so it just sat on the shelf and gathered dust being given little thought or attention until last year. Last year I became very close with a like minded person and slowly banter became research to pass the time, research became planning and one afternoon of caffeine fueled excitement lead to this:

I rashly went out and purchased this bike frame. This will be the vehicle of my latest dream. Hopefully, it will lead me to places in America that most people don't even know exist, experiences that I well never forget and make me more in-touch with myself. As the date for departure slowly nears and I think about the daunting challenge of riding from San Fransisco, CA to the east coast and I am not sure if i am ready or have what it takes to accomplish this latest goal. Then I think to myself is there ever I time that I will be more ready to complete such a challenge? Probably, not. So for today I will dream as if I will live forever and live as if I will die today.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Every Man Dies Alone - A Prologue

The cliche thing to say is that some chapters of your life end, some take new and interesting twists and turns and don't forget the new beginnings. So it is a new year..., and let me tell you 2010 was a straight up brutal year, and I don't mean this as in the you had a bummer of a year, you got in a car accident, you got in a fight with your friends and family. No, this was by far the worst year of my life. This isn't meant to be a rant about how bad the year was, but more of a benchmark upon which future years can be compared. As it goes, I will hopefully be able to look back and say "this year was not that bad, in fact it was good and I am thankful for all of the eventful and uneventful nights." Just for a little perspective on how bad a year it was, so if you don't know me that well here is the short, well meant to be short, synopsis of what has transpired.

My year started off with a bang it was just February and my last living grandparent died, which was a hard pill to swallow by itself. Not to mention she was the last true patriarch of the family, but she was also the glue that held us all together. One doesn't realize the charisma of such a person until this person is missing and everything that once was taken for granted is lost. This old lady was maybe not the nicest old lady or the ideal grandmother, but she provided a gathering place not because she provided a home for us to hold our holiday gatherings, but because no matter where you were in the world you always came home to see grandma. This is not just some small family gathering it was a place for all of the aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews to gather forget their differences and enjoy the holiday regardless of the emotional climate prior to the gathering. The real significance of this hit me on Christmas day when after experiencing a very tradition rich, family oriented Christmas with Lauren we left go to make an evening appearance at my parents new condo. I thought to myself, this will be her first Christmas with my family I hope everything goes over well and when we walked in the door on Christmas evening and my family was half asleep and barely whispered "hello, merry Christmas." Grandmother would be rolling in her grave, she was always the first one to make sure you were warmly greeted with a "Come give your Grandma a hug!" And to make sure your belly was full no matter what hour you arrived. There isn't much more to say about that other than holidays will never be the same again you will be dearly missed Cecelia Lorenzen.

After making a decently respectable recovery winter turned to spring and I eagerly anticipated returning to school and making exciting changes in my freshly four-years removed from college, monotonous life. I had been narrowed my choices down to some pretty competitive schools and received acceptance letters from most, but not all. Now to the adult and responsibility part of going to school, paying for it! I had come to the harsh reality that loans would become my best/worst friend and at this point I didn't care about how much or where I would be going, because i thought to myself, "I knew it would have to be better than here." Well it turns out if you actually get a decent job like you are expected to with a college degree it becomes increasingly difficult to pay for school if you had not saved a lot of money. Hooray adulthood and hooray short-lived success! You live and learn right?

So the despair of being stuck in this at what I had considered small-time, one-trick-pony of a Midwestern city I decided to make new friends, explore and rediscover the culture that was to be found in Columbus, Ohio. This lead me to a small group of friends who I had known, but not really that well to start a biking group called "Ride or Die." Not only did this help me explore the city, rediscover forgotten gems, but it lead me to the saying of "Sandlot Summer." The perfect slogan to be used in association with turning this year around. It was a maximize your fun, no holding back, act like a kid, stay out late, do anything and everything you had ever wanted and more importantly no boyfriends or girlfriends to hold you back. This is great!!! I thought I never wanted to be married, have kids, settle down. I was just going to be me until the end of time and I was perfectly OK with that. Or so I thought. But what happens when you put 12-15, young, 20-somethings in a group, and hormones coupled with warm sweaty summer nights that generally last far too long for anyone's good. That adorable friend that turns into a crush, which slowly becomes something more and then before you know it you are in a relationship. All is well though, because that is just what happens in the summer. Ride or Die turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done since moving to Columbus, after all I reignited my passion for biking and found love. And this was the sort of love that takes time to develop, doesn't always consist of smooth sailing, but when there is passion it is all consuming. As all of this live life to the max summer was going on I realize that this may be the girl that I have been trying to find. She is amazingly beautiful, insanely smart, very witty, makes you laugh until you are crying, likes all the same things you do, finish your sentences, know everything you think, once in a life time catch!  I was over the moon for this girl! This is great again, the year is finally turning around, 2010 rocks, right! Wrong. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this relationship and earnestly thought it was the one for the ages. But as it turns out (I am stealing this I know. I apologize, but it fits pretty well in my opinion) and as it is titled, "Painted cakes do not satisfy hunger." Unfortunately as it went I was the painted cake, meaning painted cakes just aren't the real thing. They only look like, seem like, act like and appear like the real thing. If you are seeking the truth, freedom (the true food) and in this case, the satisfying feeling of love and you find a painted cake sitting in front of you this is pretty much judgment day for any serious relationship. So the little painted cake that could, survived far past his expiration date and became very seriously involved in what may have been too short of time. We all know what happens next, hearts are broken, lives are torn apart, etc.. sad break-up story. So not only was their breaking of the rule of no boyfriends or girlfriends, curbing of max fun in a trade off for romance, the notion of sandlot summer was ultimately forgotten. More living, more learning.

The most destructive, devastating and dream shattering thing that happened in 2010, which is also the most difficult to talk about is the tragic death of one of my best friend's Ian C. Huffman. Now the loss of any best friend is at best the one of the worst days of your life, but this was the kid that as a seven year old you go over to his house to play RBI Baseball on Sega and realize you have the same birthday. You play sports with in high school and become his mentor. Some how amazingly wind up at the same university, with the same exact major and the have same life-long ambitions. This was the one person of all of your friends who you felt that you had that same connection with who you could talk to about anything, was always there for you, would be there to convince you weren't wasting your potential with too much late night drinking by debating philosophical issues with you at parties. This was not just your best friend this is the guy who would call you out when you were making lousy choices or call you out to rib you in good fun even when you were making good choices. He was your birthday twin who would get kicked out of any bar with you at a moments notice. (Note: this generally happened every birthday we spent together.) The good-hearted kid willing to go the extra mile for you at moments notice. And of all of the things Ian was Ian was the person who kept our friends  together. Today we no longer have the raging parties we used to, because he is not there to encourage the elder friends to be young at heart. We no longer debate the most preposterous arguments until late at night. We even struggle to write each other emails or give that thoughtful phone call to keep up with one another. This tragedy brought a lot of us to a very dark place, but there is something good it also brought us. The memory of a best friend and the lesson that life is unpredictable.

So next time I am so filled with joy and I belt out a unscripted "SANDLOT SUMMER!" I will remember this year and surely it will remind me that this year changed me profoundly, made me reflect on my accomplishments and take stock in my ambitions. This was truly a year to remind yourself "suck the marrow from life," because it is unpredictable and in the end every man dies alone.