Lost Girl of the Week: Katie SpearLost Girl of the Week — By Lost Girls on June 29, 2011 at 6:00 am
This week’s lost girl, Katie Spear, is the author of Blog-By-Bike . She worked three jobs for nearly a year to save enough money to relocate from North Carolina to New York City in August of 2006. Later – while she did receive significant financial support from family and friends – she worked two jobs for nearly another year to fund a 50-day, 3,690-mile cycling tour from Oregon to New Hampshirein the summer of 2010. After living in Manhattan for four years, she now resides in Brooklyn and works as an executive assistant to the founder of a leading diversified media and merchandising company. She was engaged to her boyfriend of six years in Portsmouth on August 9, 2010, about four hours after she reached the Atlantic Ocean. Although the engagement was called off in October of 2011, they remain very close friends.
The irony of becoming a Lost Girl is that we’re all actually found. I’m your typical Lost Girl cliché. I decided to get lost in order to find something.
I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I mean, really get out in a challenging way. I wanted to feel moments. I wanted to slow down the hours of my life, even if the effect was only temporary – since my minutes are often ticking at hyper-speed in the supersonic time warp that is New York City.
For all the things I love about New York – all the perceptions that brought me here on faith and all the discoveries that I hope will keep me here for years to come – there is one aspect of the energetic and fast-paced city that drove me to find an adventure like cycling across North America. Or – really – it was the final straw in a driving force propelled by the passage of 30 years that have gone by in a wink.
I don’t want it all to be over so quickly. I don’t want it to pass insignificantly.
A lot of my friends lamented turning 30 years old. And in classic Carrie Bradshaw form, I couldn’t help but wonder … when did getting another year of life become a bad thing? Even if it’s the process of aging that we specifically dread, I bet that anyone who dies young would gladly trade wrinkles and grey hairs for extra years.
In high school, I spent a semester volunteering in a nursing home in Weaverville, North Carolina. I have a vivid memory of an old woman lying in her bed, staring at the ceiling, laboring to breathe. As vivid as the image is, it had nearly been forgotten until I was cycling alone, letting my mind wander on a quiet Wyoming road over a decade later. Suddenly I imagined myself in her place, a prisoner in my aging body, perhaps recalling a lazy afternoon 50 or 60 years earlier in my life. And I swear that I nearly felt myself yearning for some generic, boring day as if I could no longer experience the comfort of it.
It was an epiphany.
I don’t actually know if that old woman in my memory was harboring such regrets, but I know that I don’t want to near the end of my life and realize that I had done it all wrong.
Before I chose the manner in which I would honor my 30th birthday – and long before that Wyoming epiphany – I only knew I wanted to start filling my life with extraordinary moments – – like skydiving or swimming with sharks or moving to New York City without an apartment or a job. I’ve only dared to do one of those three things so far, but getting lost with America By Bicycle felt like an extraordinary way to toast myself to 30 years.
I had hopes of what I would find on the road between Oregon and New Hampshire. Challenges. Personal fulfillment. Adventure. I tried to keep my expectations of the tour very vague with the overall goal to just be. Just be for 50 days and see what happens.
“You came out here to just be,” Ride Leader Mike Munk said to me on Day 47, “And somehow, you became.”
But there was something else that I would find that I had never even expected.
Somewhere between Astoria and Portsmouth, I forgave myself.
The conclusion of my cycling journey – even the self-reflection and personal insight I discovered along the way – did not bring all trials and suffering to a final resolution. There are still anxieties. Discomforts. Cranky mornings. Rough days. Sleepless nights. Worries. Dilemmas. Obstacles. Heartache.
The pattern of my life will not likely circle back in agreeable symmetry the way it often does in movies and novels. Unlike a great story, it’s not the ending that is most important in a great life; rather, it’s the fact that we existed at all.
Along my journey, I had hoped to slow down my mornings, lengthen my afternoons and appreciate moments while I was in them. I did achieve that. I had long days. Refreshing moments where I looked at the time and it was only 9 o’clock. Excruciating moments when I could feel every muscle fiber in my body. Exhilarating moments when I looked back and saw how far I had come. Peaceful moments, where I was all alone, cycling under a huge sky, letting my thoughts fill the enormous landscape around me.
Yet time does not let you hold onto it.
Even as I attempted in vain to stretch moments by realizing them while they were happening, those moments still passed. Somehow, 50 days has managed to fit into one, long blink of my eye. And then it’s gone. Time is fleeting, no matter what you do to fill it. And that’s what ultimately becomes important. How you fill it.
There is a huge world out there. Wide, open and beautiful. Bigger still than what I saw on one route between Oregon and New Hampshire. There’s even more to see and so many different ways to see it. It’s a shame to spend your life passing it all up. Exploring, marveling, laughing, crying, seeing, hearing, feeling, believing, becoming. Living.
Whatever those ways may be, sign me up.
We only get to do this once.