Two hours ago, I navigated my bicycle through a right-hand turn onto Nash Street in Rockwall, Texas, and burst through a long, paper banner that read FINISH. A mixture of friends, family and strangers shouted congratulations as I smiled, trying to saturate myself in the moment.
Almost eight weeks have passed since leaving my home in Brooks, Maine, on a mission to use my gifts, opportunities and desires to determine which direction I should head for the next season of my life. I’ve met new friends, visited new areas and left gallons of sweat on the highways of the eastern and southern parts of this fine country.
The celebration was appropriately consistent with the personality of the rest of the trip as most of the people greeting me were those I’d never met. However, they were in some way invested in the effort. In just a few minutes after the celebration had died down, I had the opportunity inside an air conditioned home to be introduced to each one.
More new friends.
I am happy to be here, but feared that I wouldn’t be able to summon the requisite emotion to properly honor the moment. That’s been one of the disappointing aspects of this trip. I’ve been so focused on what needs to be done and my preparation to avoid anything that could harm this mission that I’ve largely missed the opportunities to process all that’s occurred.
In fact, I’ve relied very heavily on the encouragement I’ve been getting from others. I’m not sure if it appears to be an unhealthy attraction to the praise of others, but I do not classify it as such. I can get very inward and negatively obsessive in my thinking and I’ve benefited greatly by being able to enjoy this trip through the reactions of others, including my own family.
At a rest stop about 10 miles before our final destination today, my wife admitted that she was afraid this morning that she wouldn’t enjoy the excitement she thought she should at the thought of the completion of this mission. However, she was pleased later in the morning that those stomach-residing butterflies did emerge.
She punctuated a brief message of encouragement by saying that she was proud of me.
That loving statement provided me with all of the energy I needed to get me past nasty chip seal road surfaces, uncomfortable heat and a strong headwind to proceed to my goal. I guess that any man would like to receive such a statement from his wife, and I would gladly ride another 2,200 miles to hear it again.
Just give me a few days off first.
People have questions, some specific ones about the people and places and other variables of the contexts they’ve found ourselves in. Others have more existential queries, like inquisitions regarding whether I “found what I was looking for.”
It’s important for me to restate the intentions for this trip. Although I expected some self-discovery, some stretching and refining of my faith in and understanding of God, and perhaps some developing idea of what I should do with the rest of my life, those were all merely hopeful fruits of the effort.
Above all, I simply needed something to do with my time. My frustration with what I perceived the options for how I invest my time and abilities drew me to pursuing this adventure. I felt like the Diner of Life was quietly suggesting I order off the lunch menu without revealing that it actually offers a great selection of nontraditional and delicious fare for anyone who would ask.
When I realistically observe my own tendencies, I sense an inertia to settle in life, to take what’s given to me and simply repaint it or move it around once in awhile.
However, as I age, I become increasingly uneasy with this paradigm and more in love with the idea of new construction. Each of us are unique people with something to offer the world. It would behoove us to each ask deep questions and settle in our minds and hearts our purposes for being here and what we should do with our time.
I will spare the readers by ending my sermon here, but offer it without apology for it is the very foundation for this incredible feat and any wonderful thing that will happen in your life.
But what about the future? What’s next for me?
As excited as I was reach the goal, I was also a bit fearful that I’m looking ahead again into uncertainty. It was a comfort for a short while to be able to pour myself into this adventure, but soon we will be back in Waldo County doing life in a familiar context.
I will be writing a book on Spokes and Jokes that will contain many of the details I’ve left out of my columns and blogs. I’m hoping it will inspire and challenge in ways that will lead to greater change than mere physical pursuits.
I wish to sincerely thank everyone for their interest and support of my family as we pursued something larger than us in an effort to enlarge our faith, our minds and our futures.