What a year! I will forever look back on 2016 as the year that overflowed with joyful moments like slamming into the ground repeatedly, getting my heart pulverized, and finding out we’d elected Trump. What a time to be alive! And yet, in the wake of a year of sometimes crippling defeats, I have never felt more alive, excited, and ready to plunge ahead.
So many things happened in the last 12 months. We launched Hagens Berman | Supermint and had an incredible season of highs and lows, victories and learning experiences, and a roller coaster of thrills that took the team all over North America and to Italy for the Giro Rosa. (Meanwhile, I went to Canada. So that’s basically my 2016 life choices in a nutshell.) It still feels surreal, yet we’re now well underway towards our second season.
In my own cycling career, I raced hard, crashed harder, stubbornly kept going even harder than that, and then retired. It seemed like a good idea at the moment, sort of like jäegerbombs or that time I pierced my nose. But like any good pro cyclist, I quickly unretired and kept training because that is what we do.
Off the bike, I drove back and forth across America a time or four, in the way that other people run to the grocery store. Oh, you need something in California? BRB. I don’t regret the experience – I love a good roadtrip and the thrill of motorpacing behind my car for three hours along the highway – but maybe the next time a guy suggests I move across the country for him, I’ll just pack a carry-on and fly. Because there’s a good chance it’ll be a short trip anyway.
Which brings me to that little thorn in the side of 2016, the Great Shocking Heartbreak Adventure. I rearranged my life for a dude that turned out to be not what he seemed, or maybe exactly what he seemed had I been willing to be less delusional. I made a serious of bad decisions that culminated in realizing abruptly that I was a sucker and the unfortunate owner of a fully-furnished and now entirely unnecessary home in Seattle. So I cried and screamed WHYYYYYY at the heavens and then moved back across the country and cut my losses.
Now it’s the end of the year and a great time to reflect on a number of valuable lessons to take into 2017 and beyond. Let us all learn from my foibles so that at least some of us can avoid the joy that is letting somebody break your rib AND your heart.
1. If you are not sure about a new living arrangement, stick to Ikea options. It makes bailing in a hurry much less painful and expensive; nobody weeps over the loss of a particleboard bed frame.
2. Say yes to adventures that make you feel anxious. Say no to people that make you feel anxious. It’s a great idea to step outside your comfort zone to explore the world and branch out personally. But if somebody tries to tell you, “no, really, you LIKE this,” and your gut says you don’t, listen to it.
3. Consider refundable plane tickets. After retiring, I bought a plane ticket to Japan for a 3-week adventure in January. Hooray spontaneity! Then I unretired and need to spend January training. Changing that ticket to a trip after the season ends was an unpleasantly expensive undertaking. Lesson? For big trips, it might be worth building in flexibility.
4. If you are looking for a way to spend all of your time and money, start a professional cycling team. This requires no explanation.
5. Money can buy neither love nor happiness. “But it can buy a bicycle and that’s basically the same thing!” Oh, please. Seriously, though, if you think you can throw money at yourself or somebody you love in hopes of making everything better/happier, just stop. It doesn’t work. (Or throw it at me instead.)
6. Always do your workout. You’ll rarely regret it. Getting up and moving when all I want to do is read the Internet and eat Veggie Straws never fails to make me feel better. And besides, the Veggie Straws are always there waiting when I’m done.
7. Compromise is key to making any relationship – personal or business – successful. But compromise by definition is mutual. Be willing to give, but not everything all the time.
8. There are three things on which you should never budge: How much you’re comfortable spending, how much you’re comfortable drinking, and what saddle you ride. Your butt deserves better.
9. If you find yourself Googling “is this the right person for me?” you can stop right there because you have your answer.
10. There is always time to stop for coffee or a snack. Life is short and nobody ever dies saying, “Thank god I never made time to sit and eat ice cream.”
11. Sometimes stopping entirely is the only way to move forward. This is hard for me to accept because I stubbornly refuse to back down under any circumstance, even while losing a fight with a tiger that is poisonous and covered in angry wasps. But I wish I’d sat out the Gila race after I got a concussion, and I wish I’d given my body time to recover from the crash at North Star, and I wish I’d walked away from the relationship that made me feel badly long before it imploded. A well-timed cease and desist would have made all the difference many times over.
12. Instead of trying to have what you want, want what you already have. I’m perpetually discontent and always chasing more in life, and frankly after 32 years of this, I can tell you it’s not doing me any favors. Don’t make the same mistake. Chances are, you already have everything you need to be happy.
There were a lot of painful moments this year, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Maybe I needed to learn hard lessons in cycling to make me a healthier, wiser athlete. Maybe I needed to get my heart trampled by a guy to figure out how to be smarter and stronger (and more careful with the concept of joint checking). Maybe I needed to walk away from everything I’ve worked for to realize just how badly I still want it.
All any of us can do is weather the shitty times, learn from them, and keep going forward. I am so happy to be here now, surrounded by people that make me feel lucky to be alive, doing things that make me excited to wake up each day. There is no better way to start a new year.