Saturday, April 07, 2012

Life - Carpe Diem

(Originally started Monday March 19, 2012, at 2:30 AM)

I've had a hard time finding words after this weekend. I had all sorts of "to do" lists going into Sunday's race. I felt bad for not posting a race report from the Ris, nor any reports on what occupied me before the race. I felt I neglected things at home and I felt bad about that. I rode very little last week - one day for two hours, then another day when the Missus pushed me to get on the bike for a short bit (45 minutes) before I headed down to my dad's.

Of course I have this wonderful son, a tiny newborn, and I love him dearly. He lays, as I type (on March 19th, at 2:30 AM), on a Boppy pillow on my lap.

(A Boppy pillow is meant to help support a breast feeding baby, but I found it helps free up a second arm without breaking contact with the baby. This means I can type while he sleeps comfortably against me.)

All those "to dos" changed in the Cat 3-4 race on March 18th, 2012. Most of you, maybe all of you, know about the accident. For those of you that don't, a rider in the 3-4 race, Markus Bohler, fell, and, early the next morning, passed away.

I never wrote about it here but I put up a brief post on the Bethel Spring Series site.

Markus Bohler

My brother made it to the memorial, on March 25th. He knew that I'd want to have some memory of the day. I knew I wouldn't be able to do much, but he managed to document it.

I've only now, on Easter Saturday, been able to open the images and movies he captured that day, and even now I could only look at a part of that list of files.

One thing struck me though, and it's resonated strongly in the last few weeks. A friend wrote a fitting tribute to Markus. In it he talks about the idea of dying while doing something you love, and it being either the highest privilege or the cruellest irony.

I talked about this idea on the 25th, the idea of living life fully. When we selected the name of the team back in the day (I think it was late 1988, for 1989's season), we chose Carpe Diem Racing. "Carpe Diem" means "Seize the Day", or, in a sense, "seize the moment" or "seize the opportunity".

At the time, sitting in the family room at my dad's (there were four of us - Mike, Ty, John, and myself - talking about the name for team the next year), I thought it a very appropriate name for a cycling team. I always thought it meant more about doing well in a field sprint, to shoot through that gap, to attack when the thought occurred, nothing more than that.

I never realized those words could be so powerful.

They tell us we should live life to the fullest.

Markus's fall struck home because it was something that could happen to any of us. The crash happened here, not in some far off impersonal land. It happened amongst us. He was an experienced rider, competent. He wasn't a new rider that had no idea what was going on. It happened in a blink of an eye, on a straight, with no warning.

It could easily have been me. Or you. Any of us.

His death struck me hard. I, like many of you, have been thinking and rethinking my purpose here in life. I am married and have a child; many of you are one or the other too. I have my goals and aspirations, just like everyone out there.

I guess my simplest goal is that I want to have a stable family life and raise a good kid. That has all sorts of levels of meaning - we need some amount of income so we can pay for a place to live, food to eat, and other mundane, basic things.

After that?

Carpe Diem.

I want to live life to the fullest.

That doesn't mean I'm going to get drunk and go clubbing every night. I suppose that might have been a thought had I been 20 years old. I can see how some people just might do that regardless of their age, but for me living life to the fullest means something different. It means being able to accomplish the basic things that make me happy, that make me feel satisfied.

What are those things? I'll start with the mundane and work my way up.


I like a certain order in my life. I prefer stability to chaos. I guess I can handle chaos if I have to, but I'd much rather be prepared. For example, during the Halloween storm last fall, I felt fine once we had one of our generators online and a few lights on in the house. I was okay with the idea that we wouldn't have power for a while, and I knew that while in "survival mode" (that's what I call it), we'd do whatever it took to survive. I've had times like that before, like when I started out on a four week road trip around the country and my engine caught fire on Day One. Or when I got lost in Central Park at the height of the crack-fueled shooting era. Given a choice I prefer to need to get through those days, not live them.


I tend to be risk averse. I like backups of everything, two of each thing. I will take calculated risks, but I prefer security. It sounds crazy but I do criteriums because they seem less risky to me. I've watched some hellacious high speed crashes (at least one from a first person point of view), and there's nothing more helpless feeling than knowing you're about to hit the deck at 50 or 60 mph.

Unconventional Career

I don't mind trying out what others may deem unconventional career choices. For example I tried my hand at owning a bike shop before I ever got my first real job (and for the record, I'd recommend getting a real job first and then trying out any bike shop ideas you might have). I've had corporate jobs to, and I seemed to thrive in them. I don't feel limited either way, like I need to be in one or another. For me this is a huge advantage, since it means my ideal career could be virtually anything.

Know When to Say When

I know what I know, and I know what I don't know. I am not afraid to ask for help if I know I don't know something.

Help Others

There's a significant thing, one thing makes me feel like I can make a difference here in this world - I really, truly enjoy helping people. Today, April 7, a family rescued me from a horrible workday by asking me for help. A couple with two young children, they asked me various questions about all sorts of stuff and trusted me implicitly with my answers (including a couple "I don't know, let me ask"). They made a hard day seem pleasant. The help topic is less important; what's crucial is the whole "Someone trusts me to help them" bit, and feeling like my knowledge, my advice, can make a difference in someone else's life.

So where does that leave me?

Honestly, I really don't know.

A confidant virtually accused me of wasting my life, doing what I do now. I didn't take offense to that observation. In fact I expect said person to feel horrified when they read that prior line, and I want to assure them that they should in no way feel any horror at their acute and accurate observation.

I say that because when I think about it, yes, I've been coasting along. I've spent the last five years trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and I've gotten nowhere quickly.

I've been living the antithesis of Carpe Diem.

It's easy to do nothing so I fell into a groove. I did all my regular things. I raced bikes. Okay, fine, I made some refinements there, got my first custom frame, bought some new wheels, and joined a new team. I've been working. I started a job located three miles from the house, and, frankly, it's a job with pretty much no room for growth. I enjoy it because I can help people, it's low stress, but in a fiscal sense it won't go very far. I make about 3/8 what I used to, and although money isn't everything, it certainly helps lubricate life.

(I do enjoy helping people, and I get to do that a lot there, but that part doesn't help pay for day care or lessons or college tuition.)

After thinking about it, I recognized that at least recently my overall "life" picture hasn't changed much.

Then Markus fell.

And in the next day or two, after the horror had sunk in, I started thinking of what his death meant to me.

What came to mind was the idea of Carpe Diem, of seizing the moment. I wanted to live a bit more fully, accomplish more, move ahead. I wanted to stir the pot of soup, watch everything move around, make the soup more flavorful, more tasty.

What would I change to make my life more meaningful to me? What would I change so that I could make more of a difference, however small, in the world?

I realized that although I've made some strides in parts of my life in the last five year (for example, I'm married now, and we have a baby boy, two things I thought impossible for me as recently as ten years ago), I'd gotten virtually nothing significant done otherwise.

I realized that if I fell right now, I'd feel disappointment in myself before I hit the deck.

Therefore I've decided that I need to start making changes, start deciding on what I want to do. I have some long term goals, things I've kept offline, just like we kept Junior offline until he was born. One is a decade and a half long project, stalled numerous times. Some are a bit less specific, others are much more so.

I kind of know what I want to accomplish; now I need to figure out what I need to do so I can hit those accomplishment goals. I won't make rash decisions even though the decisions may seem extreme; the Missus and I have been talking about some relatively extreme lifestyle thoughts and directions.

There is some risk in some of our ideas. We have to weigh what's important to us and think about what we can sacrifice.

For me it all comes down to this.

Markus's death can either teach us a lesson, or it can be in vain.

I'm taking that lesson, and I'm trying to live up to its teachings.

Carpe Diem.


Dennis said...

Excellent post, Aki. I guess there's a silver lining in Markus's tragic death. Hopefully it inspires others to once again "sieze the day" like you've now committed to do.

I just hope that your "relatively extreme lifestyle thoughts and directions" don't result in the end of this blog!

Jim Browning said...

Truly great post - you write so well.

"Balance", which is part of what you are talking about, has always been hard for me. Choices frequently mean giving one aspect of life a higher priority than another, and especially with a growing family, you end up juggling: something is always "up in the air" and not receiving that direct contact. IMO, it is vital to pursue a passion, even if it limits time spent on other priorities, because passion is needed to be happy, and we are pretty much worthless to those we care about if we aren't happy. So Carpe Diem, Aki. May you achieve balance, and the resulting lack of stress, as you sort it out.

Jim (AzTallRider)

Aki said...

Thanks both. I've found it very difficult to write recently, with all sorts of levels of "trying to do the righ thing". I hope that this is the start to unclogging the words in my head. And D, I plan on having the blog for a while - I even bought the domain name for the eventual conversion to a "real" site name, and I bought it for 10 years.

Kathy Page said...

Wow! This is your Aha moment.

Don said...

Nice entry....2 quick comments...I think criteriums are safer than road races as you imply because of the lack of high speed descents and also mountain biking may be "safer" than all in that it is more of a TT without a pack around you and if the descending is too much, you get off and walk...and this is common...

Being risk averse is not a dirty word(s)..