Inertia

It made sense for me to do my first bike-to-run workout of the tri-training season at my parents’ house. I was visiting for the day and easily tossed my bike on the back of the car. It is much easier to ride in my parents’ country setting, with long stretches of rolling hills and very little traffic. I know the placement of every pothole, which intersections are tricky, and which hills are tough.

The last time I trained for a triathlon I did most of my workouts with friends. I would ride to their house in the morning, swim at their neighborhood pool and enjoy breakfast in their kitchen before riding to school with Nicole. Those same friends left in a U-Haul today for their move to Delaware. I realized as I was riding this morning that the kind of summer we had two years ago might now be relegated to the world of never-again. They will stay my dear friends, but what we had then we will never get back.

When I was applying to graduate schools, I had the opportunity to go to school in DC. I knew that I wanted to stay in Boston so I turned it down to go to a conservatory in this city and start to develop contacts and relationships in the music scene here. I ended up at a school that didn’t quite give me the opportunities I would have liked, but when I consider what a wimpy, boring singer I was at the time I should be grateful they took me at all.

What I didn’t suspect was how many of my relationships would grow merely out of proximity. Most of my closest friends from college are the ones who were in Boston after we graduated. Time has gone on and they have departed: for San Francisco and Durham NC, for St Louis and Nicaragua, and for Delaware.

As I biked the rural roads through neighboring towns today I marveled at how much open space one still can find in central CT. There are changes for sure, but they are mostly the good kind of growth: corn growing and changing the landscape for a season, trees now hiding houses in front of which they were saplings a decade ago. A farm changes hands. A house goes up.

When I moved to the city I wanted the kind of stability I had back home: I knew where everything was, I was connected to lots of people. I settled in a particular neighborhood in 2003 and have stayed put since then. A lot of people have been surprised by or even dismissive of that. By rights I should have been free to do whatever I wanted. Single, educated, confident, talented – I could have gone anywhere. But I didn’t want to go anywhere.

Friends and neighbors have come and gone, and each time close friends leave I marvel at their bravery even as I miss them terribly. Even though we hold each other in our hearts I can never shake that feeling that I am being left behind. As I watch people go off to do different things I wonder if I am a victim of my own inertia, resisting motion because I’ve spent so long standing still.

Thoughts of standing still assail me only for as long as it takes to recognize that I have never been standing still. Each year has held new adventures, new accomplishments, and new friends. Stasis has never been one of my faults. Should I feel shame because in the midst of all this activity I’ve sought out the stability I need in a familiar neighborhood, where I know all the hidden street parking and where to find the best slice of pizza?

Since this was my first big ride in a while, I was struggling up one of the hills around mile 10. I gritted my teeth and counted my pedal strokes until the hill crested, as they all do eventually. As I glided down the other side I kept my pedaling strong, knowing that picking up speed would alleviate the strain of the bigger hill that was coming. Inertia was my friend, helping me stay in motion even as gravity acted against me.  Maybe that was taking the easy way out. Maybe it was strategy. Either way, it worked for me.

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