Tuesday, September 22

Join a Great Wave

I used to be funny.  Back when I rode my bike in traffic every day to and from a job I hated…yeah, those were the days!  My go-for-broke wit poured forth like dingy water from a busted sewer pipe.  I made people laugh.  Well, I made myself laugh.
My got-nothing-to-lose humor carried me through some tough times.  I really did hate my job.  I won’t lie; I wanted to kill myself some days.  I was in a dark and self-destructive mental ecosystem.  I didn’t know if I was going to survive.  Ha ha!  So funny!
But I was able to write silly and sometimes borderline informative blog posts on a daily basis.  Sometimes I posted three times a day!  I wrote short stories.  I cranked out a book.  Writing was an escape for me.  It protected me from a daily reality I didn’t have the energy to deal with.
Somehow I got through those five years.  I had my amazing family.  I had my Leadville obsession.  And I had my long bike rides.
My commutes were therapy even though they were stressful in themselves at times.  My mountain biking diversions were better therapy, though these days I think I’m more of a mountain biker than I was then despite having less time and opportunity to ride.
I don’t hate my job now.  I’m able to do things that I want to do.  I’m able to bend and twist my job duties to fit my own world view and values.  And it’s not even a bad thing!  There’s even the possibility that I might end up creating my dream job with full organizational support.  Still working on it, but it’s not too far out of reach right now.
I’ve managed to draft a bike-ped plan for my home town(s) and they adopted it.  I’m working on improving river access in my community and seeing great gains.  I’m making some progress on getting the ball rolling to build a lot of mountain bike trails a half hour drive from my house.  What’s really encouraging with all three of these efforts is that other people are taking up the cause and moving forward with them.  These aren’t just my dreams and fancies.  I’m acting as a catalyst to get things moving.
But oddly, I’m not inspired to write like I was when I lived in Colorado.  I find it terrible ironic that Colorado was the kind of landscape I have dreamed of living in (and still do) my whole life, but I was so miserable while we were there that I could hardly think about anything except escaping the situation I was in.  It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t find a path that kept us in the West.  But it’s fortunate in ways too.  I feel like I’m contributing and making a difference.  It’s just that there’s no wallowing and escapism to drive me to write.
Recently I saw a story about Gov. Hickenlooper pledging $100 million to make Colorado the best state for cycling in the country.  I thought bitterly that maybe that could go to creating a few more bike professional positions. Ha ha.  I try not to look down those dark roads.  I try to forget Colorado.
You can see that I’m insanely successful.  Recently one of my coworkers started pointing out every time I mentioned “when I worked in Colorado.”  I didn’t realize I was doing it.  My delivery was off too.
This last year I’ve been trying to realign my priorities and focus.  It may not seem like it to those who know me IRL.  But I have known for years that I am too self-centered.  I want to be a good person and a good member of my global village, but I’ve been too mired down by the sludge inside my own brain and heart. 
The change started eight years ago.  I took my first planning class at EKU with Alice Jones.  It was a joint class between the regular university and the College of Justice.  There were a handful of geography students and an equal number of police officers.  The first exercise in class was to go out and take twenty photos of our communities.  We were supposed to take ten of things we liked about the community and ten of things we didn’t like.  I couldn’t find ten images of things I liked about Stanton.
At the end of the semester she paired us across colleges to do a final assignment which used those initial photos to build on.  The officer I was paired with had similar problems with finding good things to capture.  And we had even focused on the same types of things within the community.  The most notable were sidewalks.  Except, where I was simply disgusted by the state of disrepair and neglect he was concerned the pedestrian infrastructure in his community because his teenage son was blind and in a wheelchair.
By the time we finished our paper my worldview had changed.  That’s when I decided I wanted to be a planner.  I couldn’t sit back and let apathy and ignorance shape the world around me anymore.  And believe me; trying to make a difference is a constant battle with apathy and ignorance.  I don’t think most people are intentionally difficult, but there are just so many hurdles to overcome in reshaping the status quo.
You can’t just whack them in the knees with a baseball bat if you think you’re losing ground.  And that’s too bad, because I think it would speed up progress even if we’d need a lot more ADA accessible facilities.  Job security, I guess?
Man, it’s a good thing I don’t ever plan on running for office.  I give my fictitious future opponents sooooo much fodder for the mudslinging.
Yesterday a circle closed.  The speaker for my Regional Transportation Committee meeting was Casey Schaeffer.  She is Miss Wheelchair Kentucky 2015.  Hearing her story and talking to her about the challenges she faces reminded me why I got into this.  She reminded me why I wanted to change the world in the first place.  It matters to have a name and a face to put with the issues.  We all need someone to plug in when we are moving through life, to think “how would (insert name) deal with this?” and to continually remind ourselves that the world was not put here just for ourselves.  Not one of us abides here alone or independent of our communities.  We need to care about our communities enough to do the right thing.  And the right thing is rarely the cheapest or conversely the most profitable way.  When profit is the motive the outcome is likely to disappoint.
But you already knew that, right?  I mean, look at the mess we’re in because of profit driven health care, profit driven insurance, profit driven agriculture, profit driven war, profit driven housing and banking, and profit driven education.  When money becomes the motive people suffer.  And if you don’t care about the suffering of other people then I am sure your money will take care of all of your needs.

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