A grin spread across my face, my shoulders relaxed. I laughed out loud and yelled with joy! My mind was empty and my soul was free.
Happiness. The wind blew in gusts, driving me across the road as my legs continuously spun the pedals. The rain came from the side in huge droplets, freezing any exposed skin and obscuring my sight. A grin spread across my face, my shoulders relaxed. I laughed out loud and yelled with joy! My mind was empty and my soul was free, and this was on my commute home from work. How did I get here? How could I enjoy a commute so much?
Just the day before I’d had the same dull day that seemed to have been stuck on repeat for weeks. The same pattern many of us endure just to get by. Commute, work long hours for low pay in a high stress environment, commute. Repeat. The only changes being the increasing amount of responsibility and more work put on your shoulders as time goes by.
It drags you down. You stop doing the things you love because you are too tired, too depressed, too busy, too accepting of the inevitable monotony to take control and enjoy the few moments of freedom that you do have.
Not this day. On this day I had been offered the opportunity for something new, something different, something to break the repetition. Sure it was only a training day in a another location, it was still work, but it was different. I was dragged out of my work induced stupor by my own mind as it woke up to this prospect and an idea began to form.
The location was 60 miles away and most of that could be ridden on back roads, cycle paths and a canal towpath. A 60 mile commute to work? The other options were to drive or take an easy train journey. The choice was obvious.
Comfort. A feeling of well-being, contentment and security. Sounds nice. Who wouldn’t want that? Of course everyone does. But does everyone really appreciate it? Most of us have had easy access to comfort our whole lives. We are born into it, we are taught how to maintain it and we work hard to do so. It’s pleasant, it’s ok, but for what? And are we truly happy or just mildly content?
The alarm attacked just before 4 am. I didn’t sleep well. Too much anticipation, too many worries, too many thoughts telling me this is just not the right thing to do, people will say I’m crazy, laugh at me when it all goes wrong.
I do it anyway. How will I know until I try it? I pedal through the puffs of my own breath in the frigid morning air. The usually busy commuter towns that I know well are ghostly quiet. No one commutes at this hour. Or nearly no one.
The 60 miles on the way there is pleasant, not relaxed, not free, but pleasant. The worries are still there. What if i’m late? Get lost? Have a mechanical problem? Run out of energy? I hadn’t made it easy for myself either. I was riding my recently converted cross-bike that now had very flared drop bars and a fixed gear, I had only ridden a fixed gear a handful of times prior. 60 miles without being able to coast is an exciting and mildly terrifying experience when you are used to gears and freewheels. I am fully aware the whole way that the chances of cycling back again are slim, i’ll have just finished work and I would have to cycle directly passed the train station offering a quick, easy route home again.
When you push yourself, take on something that scares you that you aren’t sure you are capable of and makes you uncomfortable, then you truly discover the meaning of comfort. You no longer just accept it, allow yourself to be content with what you’ve got. You truly appreciate it. You soak it up. You wallow in it. But you no longer need it.
My colleagues are reasonably impressed but mostly jealous, they all understand what a 60 mile cycle is but wouldn’t go so far as to consider it a commute. They also arose at 4 am to catch an early flight but had spent their mornings sitting in airports, on a cramped plane and in cars. All of which is not strange, not out of the ordinary, not a story to tell. They had barely breathed any fresh air or seen any natural light. It was fairly clear to them and myself that I was not going to cycle back. Why would I? I had already proven it could be done.
Acceptance. Comfort leads to it. Once you have achieved comfort what else is there? The goal has been reached. Comfort is easy. No further effort is required. Accept that and relax. But why stop there? Well are we really relaxed? Are we so happy and content that we just lie back and revel in our pure comfortable bliss? Not usually no. In truth, being comfortable, happy and content is not what we should be aiming for. Yes, these are what we want but we don’t really know what it takes to truly achieve them.
Progression. Instead we should pursue our own progression, our own growth. To better ourselves, to continuously reach goals we had never considered possible. It is only through being uncomfortable that we offer ourselves the opportunity to grow, to develop and learn what we are truly capable of. It is too easy to stop this process when comfort is achieved and resign ourselves to our ‘happy’, ‘content’ lives.
I pedalled straight passed the train station heading for the canal. I knew exactly what the next 60 miles involved, I knew how long it would take and the effort involved and I could see the dark clouds rolling in. There was an easy way out, a route with no effort. I had already had an adventure with the mornings commute. Why not just call it a day? Because I wasn’t sure I could do it. My legs were not used to the fixed gear, my body was not well rested from the short sleep and I had already spent over 4 hours riding today.
As I reached the end of the canal section and moved onto the quiet country back roads the day drew to an end and the weather closed in. The lights went on and my endlessly spinning legs continued their relentless task. I had run out of water and had 25 miles left to go. The wind whipped up as the saturated clouds began to empty all around me. I was nervous but confident, tired but determined. My thoughts of work had long since faded leaving my mind quiet, calm and focused. As the difficulty of the challenge increased with the worsening weather, my worries of my capabilities decreased. I knew what I could do. I gained confidence, happiness, an understanding of why. I laughed in the face of adversity, I was genuinely happy.