What's next? Alpine team member and Team 22 cyclist Rachel deliberates the age-old dilemma: follow your dreams, or just settle?
I haven’t blogged for quite a while now. I just haven’t been in the mood for writing. But today I feel like getting some of my thoughts down on paper. Finally. There has been quite a bit going on lately: I finished university, graduated with a First Class Law degree, raced my bike a bit, and spend the rest of my time training or at work. Busy.
It’s weird, because you could say that I am at a crossroads in my life. I’ve spent the last few months deliberating which would be the best route. It’s a difficult decision. The safe option would be to do my diploma. That’s what everyone does, right?! When you go to university to study a law degree, the next obvious option is to do the diploma and then go on to do the traineeship. But what if the next obvious option is not always the best option? What if you have another option?
My other choice is to take some time out. Dedicate this time to training, racing my bike, working hard and seeing how far it can take me. Ultimately, it’s a risky option – you might give it absolutely everything for nothing in return. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I was absolutely wrong on so many grounds. Even if I gave it absolutely everything and it went nowhere, at least I could say I’d had the best time of my life riding my bike and doing something I love, seeing new places, and challenging myself.
I often think that as humans, we have a terrible tendency to stick with what’s safe, with that we know. I know I can do education – I feel like I’ve proved that to myself now – but bike riding is unpredictable, it’s dynamic and it’s exciting. It’s exhilarating and terrifying all at once, and most of all it is a personal journey. Maybe you think I am being dramatic, but until you’ve been flung off your bike at 30mph, or achieved something that you never quite thought possible, I guess it’s hard to understand.
Riding your bike is quite special. There are days where you go out and it just hurts, or where you push yourself so hard during a session that you spew, but it’s all worthwhile to see the improvements and the changes – not just physically, but mentally too. It’s special because until you have experienced the satisfaction of self-improvement, it’s hard to understand what drives a person to do it in the first place. Looking back to a year ago when I first picked up a bike and I thought cycling 15 miles at 14mph was an achievement, the change is quite astonishing. When someone asks me what I’ve done today, and the reply is “ah, just 70 miles”, you see their eyes pop out their heads and the facial expression that appears that says “you are crazy”. But I love it.
To compete at sport at any level, I think individuals all must have similar characteristics that allow them to push themselves to the limit, and I want to see how far I can push and what I can achieve. It excites me to think that progress I might see in a years’ time or two years’ time. Will I be sitting in a chair writing a blog thinking ‘oh my God, I was so slow back then!’ or ‘look how puny I was compared to now?’ I guess the answer is that I won’t know unless I keep going and keep pushing.
Some people have been a bit critical of my decision to graduate with a law degree and choosing not to use it. They call it a waste. Does it matter if I’d rather do something that I was absolutely 100% passionate about and committed to? What is so wrong with people following their dreams, however outrageous, crazy or unachievable they may be? In fact, I admire everyone who has the courage to make the change, to go against the norm. That’s gutsy.
As the saying goes, ‘everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of fear’. Fear that we might not be good enough, fear of failure, fear that it won’t work out, fear that it’s not what you thought it was going to be. The list is endless. I am sure I could make up a list of excuses as long as my arm why it’s better to fit in with the norm. The answer is simple: to do something different would be to step outside of your comfort zone, into the unknown. The comfort zone is a pretty weird place: inside that bubble there is certainty, and security. However, only once you step out of that zone will you make progress, and allow yourself to utilise all the opportunities that are given to you.
So I’ve decided that I’m not going to step out of my comfort zone, I am going to LEAP out... Because I feel like this journey is only beginning, so why stop now? Regardless of the road ahead, I know I’m going to have a whole lot of fun trying.