When I left my bike team and told my friends “I still want to ride bikes with you,” I meant it.
For some reason, I didn’t think we’d end up riding bikes together. I assumed I had just isolated myself by leaving one of the biggest cycling teams in Colorado and that because I wasn’t wearing the same jerseys as them, I’d no longer be invited to rides.
I understand how teams work. You have a form and channel of communication. When you choose to leave a group, you are no longer part of that main communication platform. The onus is on you to schedule rides with your friends.
That was my plan.
I’d text my friends and ask them to go on rides with me. I’d have to be proactive if I wanted people to ride with.
It had only been a month since I officially left the team and already I felt isolated. Was this the best decision? Will I regret leaving the team and my bike friends?
I accepted it’d be a lonely cycling season.
Then a friend asked if I’d like to join him and another friend on a bike ride. Typically, I’d say no. But I knew this was the chance to establish a routine with people I liked.
This is what I learned from a recovery ride with three other friends:
1. ADULT FRIENDSHIPS ARE WEIRD TO NAVIGATE
We overcomplicate friendships as adults. As kids, we ask, “You want to ride bikes?” and you either said “yes” or “no” and that was it. “No” didn’t mean anything more than “no,” but nowadays, if someone says “no” to you, you overanalyze why. You wonder what you did wrong or what their problem is.
We’ve conditioned ourselves to take things too personally. We no longer know how to keep things simple.
Plus, it’s not just our six-year-old selves we have to worry about. Many of us have full-time jobs, families, funky schedules, and other shit going on in our lives that make it difficult to commit to other relationships. And it shows when someone asks us to go on a bike ride and you can’t just say “Yes.”
If you want to grow your relationships, keep it simple and say “yes” more often. Stick to your commitments and don’t cancel on invites.
2. YOU’RE NOT FOR EVERYONE, BUT YOU ARE FOR SOMEONE
Becoming self-aware means realizing that you’re not for everyone. It’s like black tea – not everyone likes it but there isn’t anything inherently wrong with black tea. It’s just black tea. Some people can drink it every day while others can only handle it once a week or some won’t even touch the stuff.
You’re like black tea. Some people just won’t care for you. That doesn’t mean you’re worthless and it doesn’t mean you have to change. All it means is that you need to find the people who like you. And there are people who prefer you over others. Just like people who prefer green tea to black tea. It’s all to do with them and their taste, nothing to do with you.
Remember this. It’s easy to take it personally if someone has an issue with your personality. It’ll make you feel less-than or that you need to change. Don’t. If everyone catered to what everyone wanted, there wouldn’t be much difference in the world. We need different teas. “Variety is the spice of life.”
Don’t be afraid to be your own variety. You will find people who appreciate your variety, your flavor, your personality.
3. YOU’VE GOT TO TRY TO MAINTAIN FRIENDSHIPS
As adults, we have to actually work to maintain relationships unlike when we were kids and had all the free time in the world to have fun and play. Like I said earlier, growing older means competing responsibilities and whatever you prioritize will flourish and what you neglect will diminish. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t maintain relationships, they’ll fizzle out.
I speak from experience. Once I started cycling, the friends I had who didn’t ride bikes fell to the wayside. They still liked going to bars Friday and Saturday nights while I went to sleep early in order to wake up at the crack of dawn to get in a 5-hour bike ride. I didn’t work to maintain those relationships and they eventually fizzled out. Granted, our interests and priorities change and sometimes, we just outgrow each other. That’s okay.
If you don’t want to outgrow friends, you have to maintain them – just like you do with the plants in your home. Water plants and they thrive. Neglect them and they die.
If a friendship is important to you, make time for it. Schedule dates, reach out to your friends consistently, and truly care about their lives and what they’re doing.
4. APPRECIATE THE FRIENDS YOU HAVE, DON’T TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED
It’s easy to take for granted what you currently have. It’s only until we’ve lost something that we realize how great it was. Don’t wait until that point. Show your friends you appreciate them now. Take them out, call them, text them, ask them how they’re doing – like really doing – and listen, and invite them to do things.
I thought I lost my friends when I left my cycling team. I didn’t think I’d ride with the several people I liked again. But getting that simple text message, We’re doing recovery laps in Chatfield on Saturday, meeting at the top of the dam at 11a…care to join? And responding with “Yeah!” was the start of nurturing a friendship I actually gave a shit about.
We’re not meant to go through life alone as much as some of us hardasses care to believe. Cultivate friendships because life is truly much happier when you can share a bike ride with someone who gets you.