I’ve always been a little different. Now whether this difference was by nature, nurture or pure necessity I can’t absolutely say. I just know that it has been a fact of my life that interesting things happen to and around me, which is fortunate since I love to write so much. Imagine my despair if I were to live a life of normality? The mere thought of the boredom almost destroys me. Luckily for me normality is not one of my multiple-choice options in life.
Early in life my difference was synonymous with clumsy. By the time I finally got my racing bike I had already had three concussions from schoolyard accidents and lots of skinned knee and elbow experiences; and so it was that when I began bike racing in 1982 my parents stocked up on band-aids and prepared for the inevitable.
I was a risk taker and I didn’t disappoint. In the first two years of racing I had several spectacular crashes during either training or racing as I crashed my way through three road bikes in just two years. My Grandmother had a unique outlook on my various crashes. No matter how severe the injury, Nan would always have the same response “Never mind love”
Nan’s three simple words had the effect of normalising my crashes and not making me precious about them. She was right of course; crashes are part of the risk taking that happens every time you get on a bike, whether it’s to train out on the road or race in a surging bunch of 100 riders each eager to be across the line first and willing to take every chance no matter who is in their way.
Bike racing, like life, is full of risk and you can only get the results when you let go of your fear and take the chance. If you sit around worrying about the potential consequences you will never take your bike off the living room carpet.
About four months ago I noticed that a piece of chilli was caught beside my tooth. When I got home from the restaurant I flossed the piece out and quickly forgot about it, although the burning sensation of the chilli lasted a few hours after the event, I didn’t pay that much attention. Flash forward three weeks and I noticed that the gum next to where the chilli had been stuck was now discoloured. Two subsequent trips to the dentist could shed little light on the misbehaving gum and consequently I found myself on the medical test merry-go-round.
If my Grandmother was still around she would have told me to “never mind” but she isn’t and so I did. I minded. I minded a lot. I happen to like my mouth and I wasn’t keen on having anything wrong with it. Now a lot of people will argue that I’ve had a continuous content problem with my mouth, or at least with what comes out of it my entire life and so it would be fittingly ironic to now have something actually wrong with it. These are a lot of the same people who tell me not to ride in traffic or take any sort of risk. These people love the safety of their carpet even while their wheels gather dust.
But maybe this time they were right? It was my mouth and not something I was willing to negotiate on, and so I worried. Me. Mad biker that flies down hills and life in the dark at 45km/h weaving through peak hour traffic with little more than lycra and a gut feeling protecting me was all of a sudden worried to take my wheels off the carpet.
All of a sudden I started to think about risk and getting older and all of the things that could go wrong. The safety of the carpet became an annoying mantra, until today. Today the results came back – apparently it wasn’t a chilli that had been stuck in my gum but a shard of glass! Oh yes you read it right, a slither of glass that had caused a pigment change, not an endocrine disease or melanoma or some other ‘normal’ disease but a crunchy piece of window material.
The specialist slapped me on the back and laughed about how unique my problem had been and that she would never had guessed it could be something so unusual, so different, but I should have guessed, I should have known that there was nothing to worry about. I should have trusted that my body wouldn’t let me down, especially my mouth, despite it’s numerous slips, it was still one of my prized and trusted assets.
The next time a Dr Worry points to one of my irregularities I’m going to tell her to never mind and then wheel my bike out of her carpeted surgery and freewheel back into the blissfully risky world of just being different.