Keep Pedaling

Friday July 10, 2020

One of the last things I did while the world was still normal was biking about 120 miles, mostly along the coast of California. It was extremely beautiful and calming, and I’m glad that I took the time to do it. I’ve enjoyed biking for a while, but it took this ride for the reason why to really click for me: once you’re a few miles in, you don’t really have the option of stopping — all you can do is keep pedaling.

A photo of a beach taken from the top of a clif. The image is shrouded in fog, but some small waves can be seen. The coast of California, doing its thing.

This is in stark contrast to much of the rest of my life, where I have to carefully choose from an infinite array of possibilities, weighing the tradeoffs of each one. Biking is comparatively simple — pick a direction, and start going.

A photo of the sun setting on a mountain of coniferous trees A vista with a beautiful view on the extremely steep mountain between Santa Cruz and San José.

I’m reminded of a conversation with a friend who quit her tech job to work as a waitress for a while. She told me that when she worked in tech, she felt lazy — the things that she worked on were far removed from concrete goals and actions. But in a restaurant, when there’s a pile of dirty dishes, you wash the dishes. A photo of a walkway with a railing, next to a river. On the oppisite bank of the river is a city skyline. It's early in the morning, before the sun has fully risen, and streetlights provide much of the illumination in the photo. A recent early morning ride up the west side of Manhattan. I frequently find myself feeling the same way — when goals are unclear, or work is “creative,” it’s easy to get stuck in a quagmire of indecision. But when you have to pedal, you pedal.

There’s a metaphor here, if you want there to be, about how to structure your life to make things easy on yourself. Starting a bike tour is a hard decision, but once you’re on a bike, pedaling is all you can do. If you want to be able to do things that are hard, structure them so that the difficult choices are made up front, and the automatic action to take moves you towards your goal.

Figuring out how to apply this lesson to your life is left as an exercise for the reader :)