Re-mix: (It’s Great To) Suck At Something
My inspiration for this comes directly from an article published via The New York Times by Karen Rinaldi, and it’s a reflection on her 15 years of surfing and sucking at it (you can and should read it here https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/opinion/its-great-to-suck-at-surfing.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=1)
For me, I have been riding mountain bikes for well over two decades now (and by my rough calculation this morning, I realise that I’m chasing down my third decade very fucking quickly), and have been battling a shared theme with Karen, of my love of something that I’m not very good at.
Whilst Karen takes the view that what we experience in failing, can build our patience and empathy, which is almost a Buddhist koan in itself and something I do relate to, however I’d like to re-mix the suck and add to why I do suck and continue and you should consider it.
So, last night when I went riding at an Auckland mountain bike park, I was off by myself, as my oldest boy Olle was riding with his Waitakere Mountain Bike Club mates, enjoying their weekly coaching and social riding session. It was dark, it was quiet, I was riding my own pace and I as always when I ride, I experienced moments of enjoyment, frustration, anxiety and finally a realisation, as I was passed by so many riders, I suck at this! Why the fuck am I here, in the middle of a deeply dark forest, by myself, sweaty, hot, almost out of breathe and just about to go flying over the handle bar and into a tree!! I know I swore out loud as I lost traction and balance… I’m not going to share the words (as I typed them in I was embarrassed and since this is digital… delete, delete, delete).
So there I am, watching the lights of the riders who had passed me fade into the dark, feeling quite pointless and mentally masticating why I was continuing to do something I suck at.
As I looked about, I realised that here I was at a point further up this technical climbing track than I’d ever ridden it before… okay, that’s a cause for a pause.
I’d climbed higher and longer than I’d ever done on this trail… does that mean I don’t suck… oh dear reader, fuck no! I’m still awful, hideously awful at mountain biking.
However for me, it was triumph over a particular trail, which has almost reduced me to tears (and before you think; well just don’t ride the thing… I’ll let you know, that you have to ride it to get out of that damn place… so there ya’ go), and you know, I’ll keep tackling it until I can ride it without stopping/crashing/stumbling etc. from start to finish, but will it make me suck less… maybe…
The key for me though, is I really do love my mountain biking, I love riding, I love my bike, I love the struggle, the post ride feeling of being drained, the stiffness the next day, the tinkering and fettling of my bike and gear and I embrace that I suck, because what it all means to me is that I’m alive.
Yes, here’s my advice, go do something you suck at and feel alive, because we all need to feel alive.