I started out on my journey from Berkeley with brand new panniers, a new to me bike, and a buoyant energy.
Not 15 miles into my ride I found my first cycling companions. As I crawled up a hill on the north edge of Berkeley’s peninsula, two old guys in decked out in riding gear caught up with me.
“Are you on tour? Where are you headed?” one of them asked.
“Up to Seattle, and back to Maine eventually,” I replied, beaming.
“When did you leave?” they wanted to know.
“Today, just an hour or so ago,” I proudly replied.
We spent maybe a half mile together, chatting about the ride. Then, I turned north over the Alfred Zampa Bridge and they continued on their loop of the delta.
On this first day, nothing could spoil my excitement. I was finally off! Making Women Who Dare a real life thing! Dreams do come true! Yahoo!
But over the next few days I’d get the same questions. And I started to feel sheepish to announce I’d be riding back to Maine. Having ridden for a day or two and only covered as far as a car can cover in a couple of hours, the dubiousness of my questioners was palpable.
They couldn’t know my surety in my ability to make the trek. They clearly didn’t know my desire to talk to amazing women across the country. All these people had were doubts about an unproven and lofty goal to cross the country by bike. And they made these doubts felt through raised eyebrows and stunned silences.
When I mixed these stranger’s doubts with my own anxiety about trip’s unknowns, I started to feel bad about myself as a beginner. Even though I knew myself to be capable, I took their misgivings and began to consider myself unproven. And so, to prove my worth, I rode hard for 11 days and covered almost 600 miles.
From this experience, I say, it’s time to embrace the beginner. Let’s not shame them for what they don’t know. Let’s instead embrace them for setting off in the first place.
This lesson is not just for how we treat others, but also for how we treat ourselves. You deserve to treat yourself with at least as much courtesy as you would treat a stranger.