Sunday, September 21, 2008

Brave New World

Since Monday, I've told a lot of people about quitting my job. Most of the responses have been surprisingly similar and positive. There have been several "good for you"s, a few "congratulations" and even an "it's about time." And although no one has come right out and told me I'm insane, I've gotten a lot of comments about being brave. I know this is code for "what could you be thinking by quitting a job without another one lined up when the economy is in the crapper?"

This was not an impetuous decision, though. Certainly, it's a gamble, but it's a calculated one. Still, it's gotten me wondering if it's something I ever would have done two years ago and the answer is a resounding "no."

What's the difference between now and then? Bike racing. I know it doesn't seem like there's connection, but just bear with me here.

Those of you who were around in the beginning or went back to read my initial post "Introducing the Accidental Athlete" will remember that before I started riding my bike, I was fat, lazy and slothful. I never took chances and didn't do anything hard if I could do something easier.

So, here I am several years later, just finishing up my first season of mountain bike racing and starting my second season of cyclocross season. You could say I've learned to take a few chances, and not always to do things the easy way. But I'm not talking about taking chances just for the thrill of the risk. I'm talking about finishing something that's hard because the rewards are great.

Why is racing so hard? It's not because I have the opportunity to crash during every race and could potentially wind up with broken bones, bruises, abrasions and stitches, although that's certainly a risk. The hardest thing about racing for me is finishing (and sometimes starting).

It's so difficult for me to keep going when I feel spent, beaten down and slow. When racing means I consistently come in last or close to it, I have to force myself to keep showing up. But I do, because there's a chance that if I keep doing it, I won't always come in last. And the rewards, though they're not tangible, are meaningful. Like being brave enough to to admit after eight years "this isn't making me happy or accomplishing my goals and it's time to make a change."

So, yes, I'm scared about quitting my job, just like I'm scared when I race. But like bike racing, I think following through with this decision is going to yield some meaningful rewards.

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