Remember randonneuring? That thing I used to do sometimes where I’d get on my bike and ride for miles and miles and miles?
No, I don’t mean normal life when I just ride for miles and miles and miles because of the sheer joy of it, I mean those semi-organized rides with checkpoints and everything, where there’s a time limit to cover a certain number of kilometers following a certain route, generally on lovely roads all around Oregon. Remember that and how excited I was about it for a while?
Somehow, last year, I managed not to do a single ride with the Oregon Randonneurs. Partly it was non-meshing schedules and partly it was feeling like I do a pretty good job of getting out on my bike without having to rely on organized rides, but there were also two other things: not making it a priority, and, perhaps more notably, not having any real personal connections that kept me attached.
No, I don’t generally feel the need to be invited to things. Though it is nice to know that people want you, I like to think that I have a pretty healthy dose of intrinsic motivation — certainly enough to do things without being asked or cajoled. But even so, when something requires an activation energy that’s slightly higher than what I’m willing to put in, it’s easy to let it slide without a buddy nudging me along.
Randonneuring is like that. Having to register for rides, having to plan them out far enough in advance to get a cue sheet and brevet card, having to deal with the administrative things like brevet cards at all, having to ask someone if I can ride “their” route, having to have a membership in an organization — all those require activation energy that, for whatever combination of the reasons I mentioned above, I was unwilling to put in last year. It was a change to my normal life that I didn’t make happen. And it’s exactly in those kinds of situations that a buddy is so important.
In September, Lynne Fitzsimmons, an awesome rider as well as a board member for Randonneurs USA, reached out to ask, non-intrusively, if there were a reason I’d disappeared from randonneuring in 2014. This was significant for a few reasons. First of all, it made me realize that someone had noticed I hadn’t been around. Maybe it’s vain, but it feels good to know that someone cares. Secondly, in answering her, it made me put into words and thus solidify for myself thoughts that had been amorphously swirling around in my head. Once those words were out in the world, it gave her a chance to address them and show me how I could think differently.
I mention this not for its own sake (though I do think it’s a great illustration of how awesome Lynne is:), but because I think it’s an important lesson. Change is hard. Even if you want to change, it’s hard. Which is why, I think, I often talk to people who want to bike instead of drive, say, or buy in bulk to avoid packaging, or eat less meat, or whatever, and yet still have a hard time actually doing it.
In cases of change, just like in this case of trying to (re)incorporate randonneuring into my life, it is so, so helpful to have someone to prod you along. Doing something out of your normal routine, or something that adds just a little bit more work to your normal routine, can be a difficult thing to maintain — especially if it’s something that you’re not yet completely sold on. A buddy who can be a sounding board and who can invite you into their world, where they already live the change you’re considering, is invaluable. A real-life example from someone, especially someone who’s invested in helping you out, is infinitely more helpful (and more likely to stick) than an abstract idea that change might be good.
Lynne was a lifeline back to randonneuring, I think. At least, I renewed my lapsed membership to RUSA, wrote all the OR Randonneur dates into my calendar, and have been putting out intentions to ride at least a few brevets or permanents this year. I still don’t know how schedules will work out, but I’m determined to make an effort. Maybe it’ll end up that randonneuring’s not actually my thing after all — but it’ll be helpful, as I try again, to have some buddies who can help me make sure I give it an honest try.
Would I be writing this right now without someone like Lynne to loop me back in by reaching out? I don’t know. Maybe. But what I do know is that it’s so much easier to add something to your life when real people, especially people you like and respect, are already including it in theirs.
Be a buddy to someone. Through your own example show them how life can be. Help them be the person they want to be without actually knowing how yet. That, I think, might be how some change happens.