Growing up in Santa Cruz, CA, I found myself in the middle of many family members who were struggling with addition: alcohol, pain medication, and crack. While I never partook of any of these substances or the volumes of drama that inevitably followed, I found myself addicted to something very different as I set out to the be antithesis of my family’s vice. I found myself addicted to a healthy dose of natural adrenaline and the endorphin that followed.
My sister recognized this in my personality long before I did, for I remember her remarks one afternoon as something akin to, “Go get on your bike and ride, you’ll be in a better mood after.” At 29, I am still discovering that this is part of who I am and how to manage these bad moods with appropriate endorphin inducing exercise, but I have also taken an interest in reading about professional athletes, for I recognized the tell-tale signs of this in their personalities in their memoirs as well. Of course, these are professional athletes and I am a school teacher, but as humans and readers, I feel like we are compelled to find similarities in each other as starting points to build this relationship and dialogue as reader and writer.
Here were some of the best examples that I can remember:
- Two years ago, when I read Alex Honnold’s Alone on the Wall I recognized this when he described his rained out trip to Devil’s Bay. Sitting alone in his tent for ten days, he writes he was, “depressed out of his mind,” and that he, “festered in my damp tent” (103). He goes onto describe his coping method which was to do push-ups and read the books he brought with him, but never being satisfied.
- Danny MacAskill describes how he deals with injury in his book At the Edge, “I feel grumpy. I tell myself that I am broken and I need ‘rest’. Just do what you need to do to get back on the bike” (150). As a coping method, he would commit himself to doing research for his next creative video release whilst laying up in bed.
- But recently, I best heard it best described in Tommy Caldwell’s 2015 TEDx talk when he stated, “I noticed that when I was lost in pursuit, my world would be filled with wonder and color. It was only when complacency would encroach, that it would cloud over.” He realized this after a partial amputation of his index finger, and integral part of his body as a professional climber.
I know that I am not a professional athlete, nor do I intend to be, but I do know that when I am on my bike, my senses come alive, my soul vibrates with energy, and my mood brightens exponentially. I am not sure where this stems from, but sitting at my desk after work, or on the weekend, grading papers is painful. My skin begins to itch for adventure, my body becomes restless to the point that I can’t sleep, and my mood begins to sour. Now when I take home a stack of research papers to peruse over the weekend, I parse them out into sections: before the ride, after the ride, two before sleep, two when I wake up, etc… This has become a practice in maintaining my sanity so that I don’t lose my mind and up and quit my job.