Becoming a Beginner, Again
I’m not going to lie. When I was diagnosed with Type 1, I thought my life was over. I saw so many doors in my future closing; there were just too many things that I didn’t think I’d be able to do. And for a long time, I was angry. So I did what a lot of us do, and ignored diabetes. I refused to let it define me, but by ignoring it I was letting it do just that.
I spent a lot of my childhood being afraid. I never wanted to stand out. I never wanted to look stupid because I didn’t know something. This meant I spent a lot of time not trying new things. I stuck to what I knew. I became good at what I knew, but I always knew something was missing. I wanted more. I wanted to be like the characters I read about in books, the ones who were always having adventures, being brave.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, suddenly I had an excuse for all the things I couldn’t do. I could hide behind the diabetes door. But, it turns out, it was actually diabetes that taught me to be brave. I realized that I was the only one holding myself back. It you listen to the voice in your head for too long, you start to believe it.
I still remember how terrified I was giving myself that first injection over fifteen years ago. I didn’t think I could possibly do it. But I had no choice. It was needles or death, and those kinds of odds make decisions easier, that’s for sure. Diabetes has taught me that being afraid is just a part of life. The more I put myself in situations that make me uncomfortable, the more I like the person I am for trying.
It all started with running. I started with a slow, painful two kilometres. Five years later, I’ve run half-marathons, marathons and even ultra-marathons. Running 100km changed my life. And it didn’t change my life because I finished the race. It changed because I got to the start line. The most euphoric moment of my life was standing on the start line of that first ever 100km run. I couldn’t stop smiling. All I could think was “I’ve actually gotten here … the girl who never thought she could run has finally proven that she can.”
I have never been a confident cyclist. But just a few years ago I wouldn’t have called myself a runner either. Bike Beyond was too incredible an opportunity to miss just because I was scared. So I threw my hat in the ring, and realized that once again, I would have to become a beginner.
I have always admired people who learn new skills as an adult. It isn’t comfortable being a beginner, being vulnerable. All of these situations that make me feel uncomfortable are the ones I keep pushing myself towards. Anything that I know will be a challenge tends to make my eyes light up. I’d rather try than spend my life wondering if I could. It turns out failing isn’t as scary as I used to think it was.
In just a few weeks I’ll be riding across America, marvelling once again at this girl I’ve managed to become. I still catch myself laughing out loud when I’m riding, marvelling at this incredible opportunity I’ve managed to be selected for. This is where the magic happens. And, after all, I don’t want to let fear decide my future.