My American Dream - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

July 27, 2014

My American Dream

Though I can't speak for any culture but my own, in America it seems to be the case that most adults arrange their lives around the principle of sacrifice. There's this idea that once you reach a certain age you must work hard and push to the background the majority of your own dreams, so that your children will one day have to work less hard and will have the time and ability and desire to pursue theirs. And it's a noble perspective, this willingness to put someone else's fulfillment above your own. But for much of the last year I've found myself thinking more and more about an obvious flaw that exists in that kind of outlook. That is, if each successive generation sets aside their dreams for the sake of those who follow, we end up in this infinite loop where everyone works hard and no one has the chance to go after what they love, to give themselves up to the things for which they have passion, to pursue whatever it might be that brings them joy and satisfaction. That's how it went for my family. For decades my mom and dad both worked extended hours, sat through long and dull car commutes, and took time off only for holidays and two or maybe three weeks of vacation each year. So too did their parents before them, working in ship yards and doing iron work on high-rise buildings, raising children and keeping up a home, and contending with both the Great Depression and a pair of World Wars.

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There's something else I can't stop thinking about: how it seems like most of us who are of working age or younger assume we'll live to be like 85 or 90 years old. We also seem to assume we'll travel the path to our advanced age more or less in good health, and that those around us will do the same. In believing this, there develops a habit of delaying what's important to us. I'll go after my dreams next year, or when I have more money, or when the weather's a little better, or after I have a house, or kids. But the truth is, not one of us knows how long we have. And once our health starts to go, it's all over. At that point, every hope and dream and wish that's gone unfulfilled will remain unfulfilled forever. My mom died at 44, and the last few years were marked by the painful progression, remission, and eventual return of the cancer that took her life. Most everything she had planned for her future was at once swept away by something beyond her control. Yet even if the worst-case scenario never happens to us, we're all guaranteed to face the slow but inevitable erosion of our abilities. I've only hit 31 and already I have weak knees and sore joints, fading eyesight, and some mysterious problem in my right ear that makes loud noises and strong winds sound like they're covered in a blanket of static. Eating cookies for dinner a couple of times a month isn't helping anything either.

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I think about these things a lot — more than I'm sure is normal or healthy. I think about them and I can't dismiss them. My parents worked hard to help me reach the position I'm in now: college-educated, an entrepreneur, and curious about the world around me and the lives of people I've yet to meet. I have a deep desire to experience new things and to see spectacular places. I also enjoy the freedom to work from anywhere on this planet for all but about five days a year. Somehow I've ended up with the elusive combination of things that so many of us want: the time, the money, the health, and the desire to do what I choose. I don't know what incredible mixture of circumstance, hard work, and luck have come together to present me with this chance, but what I appreciate and understand for certain is that the opportunity is here, right in front of me. It's a gift that may never again reveal itself.

I shouldn't wait any longer, so I won't.

In just over two months I will have packed up everything I own, found someone gracious enough to take care of my dog, flown halfway around the world, and made the first of millions of pedal strokes. That will be the beginning of a few years spent riding, writing, taking pictures, talking to strangers, eating pizza, working, volunteering, sleeping in weird places, and embracing life on the road at an average speed of eight miles per hour. It might turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime. It could end in disaster and disappointment. But however it unfolds, there's nothing else I'd rather do. That's exactly how it should be.

And do you know what's even better? I get to experience it all with my favorite traveling companion by my side.

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