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I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late to say “yes!” to bigger things. Even when you’re just an ordinary person like me, you can have extraordinary successes.
My big “yes” came when I turned 60 and decided to join a cross-country bicycle tour across the United States from California to Florida . Up until then, I’d never ridden my bicycle farther than across town, but that was about to change. In the years since then, I’ve ridden from Virginia to Oregon, from the coast of Washington State to Bar Harbor, Maine, down the Pacific Coast, and around Lake Superior, among other routes. I even arrived at my 50th high school reunion in Cheyenne, Wyoming on a bicycle, having ridden 900 miles from Northfield, Minnesota!
I love sharing the story of my first ride and the 5 steps that have helped me over and over again to achieve something I’ve never done before. My talk comes complete with bicycle-travel lyrics to familiar tunes.
If you are looking to break-out in your own life, or in the life of your organization, I look forward to inspiring you to your own new horizons, your own great successes: through making the commitment, asking for help, connecting with others, sticking with it, and bringing humor to the days.
But you can’t grasp the full impact my bike-riding accomplishments without understanding more of my background. I was born in 1939 and was, like anyone, a product of my era and my upbringing. My mother instilled in me early on that life was all about survival. She was a tough, funny, strict, softhearted lady who faced enough adversity to break anyone’s spirit. I’m happy to say she passed on to me her sense of humor, her love of music, and her ability to put funny new words to familiar tunes.
As a child I wanted to grow up to be Ginger Rogers. In college I planned to major in chemistry, but left my third year to get married and start a family. It was the time of June Cleaver, to give you a reference. My husband turned out to be a globetrotting librarian. Our four children were born in New Jersey, Colorado, and Afghanistan. Maine, Minnesota, Alaska, and back to Minnesota followed. Between moves and raising 4 children, there was no time to wonder what my own life might hold for me.
Fast-forward to my 59th year. My life looked like a success on the outside: I’d become a massage therapist and built a thriving practice from the ground up in a time when the word “massage” still raised eyebrows. My husband and I had succeeded in rebuilding our marriage after a rough patch. And my four children were all launched out in the world in their own lives.
But inside, my life felt way too small. I was frustrated, discontent, and yearning— for what, I did not know.
I watched a sister-in-law turn 60—and the sum total of her celebration was getting taken out to lunch by her mother. From my perspective, it looked like the beginning of the end, and that just wasn’t OK with me. I swore my 60th birthday would be different.
I wanted something fun, challenging, and MINE. In retrospect, I can see that racing to fulfill the needs of others at the expense of my own had become so second-nature, I hadn’t noticed as the whining puppy inside became a snarling wolf! This birthday would be MY celebration! (Grrr!)
You’ll have to hear my talk to get all the juicy details about how scared I was, how I resisted basic things like getting proper bicycling clothes, how I cried when I was left off the night before the ride began, and how I made it—yes, I made it! All the way from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL!
Cross-country bicycling became my “break-out” move. It’s changed the way I view myself and my life. It’s opened horizons, both literal and metaphorical. I’ve come to realize I can set my sights on pretty much any new horizon, and as long as I make the commitment, ask for help, connect with others, stick with it, and bring humor to my days, I am not just likely to succeed, I am bound to have another adventure that fills me with delight!