Blog, I’m back.
I just returned from an Adventure Cycling Leadership Training course at Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, Florida, and I feel like I’ve turned a corner in my retirement transition. I was totally energized from the whole experience. Then on the way back I visited my old friend Nevil, who I hadn’t seen in years and who lives outside of Gainesville, Florida. It was a most fabulous reunion, and we just picked up where we left off, both intensely interested in each other’s lives.
I feel like I could write a book on both those experiences, but I want to keep focused for a moment on that retirement breakthrough I experienced and the desire to continue this blog. Like with when I was writing about my bike trip, I want to preface this return to my blog writing with a disclaimer. This blog continues to be a rough draft, the flow of my experiences, observations, thoughts, and feelings – shaped by where it goes in the moment but not by daily hours of revision. The trajectory of my days will be the structure of what I write, and if that trajectory takes me away from the blog, so be it. Writing publicly online provides a writing structure for me, like a haiku enforces structure on the poet; it provides not only an audience but also restricts me from excessive reflection on negative emotions and enforces some restrictions, limiting my ruminations on people closest in my lives whose privacy and feelings I respect. I like that challenge. Plus, it forces me to look outward and forward and gives me perspective. Finally, I might have taught English but I am definitely not copyediting material. I will review what I’m writing as I write, but I know that I will still have real typos and what I call mind-typos, in which my mind moves fast though my writing and corrects mentally what my fingers and eyes ignored. Perhaps Richard will continue to be my copy editor but he has a lot of other things on his to-do lists.
Back to the blog and my decision and more importantly desire to continue to write. It wouldn’t have happened without attending the Adventure Cycling training and without a comment from Ed, one of my fellow participants. There were nineteen of us at the training and four leaders. I was with “my people.” It was like when I found that copy of the Adventure Cycling magazine years ago in a hospital waiting room and read it cover-to-cover while the ER staff helped Richard with an eye injury he got while doing yard work; I remember feeling as if I had found my niche, not that I had ever done any bike travel adventures. Now I think I understand why I had that feeling. I not only love cycling, but I love travel, exploring new places and cultures and meeting new people; they are a channel to the best of the human experience. Bike touring allows those two loves to meet.
Plus now I understand the philosophy of Adventure Cycling more. First, as an organization, they do have a very conscious and sincere philosophy and that’s something I respect. It was clear from the training and the actions of the four leaders that this philosophy is not just window dressing for marketing purposes but deeply held. More specifically, their idea of leadership is one that so much matches my own idea of leadership and how I tried to function both as dean and as teacher – to be in control but not controlling, to be hands-off (not micromanaging), to allow individuals the dignity of struggle and personal growth, to think of the needs of the group when making decisions, and so much more.
So there I was in Florida with people who shared my love of cycling and travel and with an organization whose philosophy matches my own so much. And to top it off, as an educator myself as well as a participant in the leadership training, I was totally impressed with the curriculum and pedagogy. Not once did I feel as if I could do without one of the sessions or as if what took two hours could have been done in one. The activities were all meaningful; none were space fillers. And it was all done with such commitment, passion, and sincerity. I don’t know if I can say that completely about any of the professional meetings and workshops I’ve attended.
Back to Ed. The nineteen of us were divided into four groups assigned to one leader. The training switched back and forth between the larger group and our small groups. Ed is from Pittsburg, and he and his buddy Rusty run tours on the Great Allegheny Passage and C & O rail-to-trail bike paths between Pittsburg and DC. He is more of an entrepreneur than I am; he has several small businesses, including the bike touring one, and has a bike-focused blog. I told him about my blog, and he said, “why aren’t you still writing? You could be a role model to other women.”
So, I started thinking. When I returned from my trip, I missed writing and wanted to continue, and I did write some. I even started another retirement blog but I never made it public and didn’t keep it up. It wasn’t clicking. Something was missing. On my trip I was eager to write my blog and publish it but with the retirement one, I wasn’t doing that. The fall was a hard time for me, post-trip blues perhaps but also lots more transition from work to retirement than I realized. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty to do but I was faltering. I missed the “main idea” that work gave to my life and was searching for a new rhythm and purpose. I felt a bit lost internally and was not as motivated with each day as I wanted to be. I was sleeping longer, what my body needed, but I still I wasn’t jumping out of bed eager to get going. I was lingering way too long.
Ed’s comment made me realize that I didn’t need to start a new blog. I could just transition the Northern Tier WordPress blog into my post retirement blog, for in fact what I am doing is cycling into the future, both metaphorically and in reality. I am moving beyond my life and identity at Athens Tech. The Florida leadership training was very validating to me and shifted something internally. With the trip across the Northern Tier, I broke free of Athens Tech, but I hadn’t really grieved for the life I left behind or even realized how much I had left behind that I gave me purpose and meaning and validation.
Then, will this blog still be about cycling? Yes, it will because cycling is so much a part of my life. But it will be about much more — my struggles with retirement, my new life post Athens Tech, my adventures off the bike as well, getting older, finding meaning, my community…and on and on to whatever life and circumstances bring my way.
This morning I woke at 7:30, and all I wanted to do was get up here to the computer and write. I thought I really needed more sleep; I was a short of it because of the stimulation and intense daily schedule of the leadership training. Richard and I had been up until midnight, watching Downton Abbey, talking about my trip, and reading in bed. I thought I needed nine hours of sleep, not seven and a half. But I wanted to get up. What a pleasure to hop out of bed eager to get working on something. I like that feeling.