I filled out a form yesterday that asked me what my greatest career accomplishment is. It's a tough question to answer -- I've not won any major awards, don't have any fishnet-clad leg lamps to point to, I don't go out of my way to seek recognition. But what I do have is satisfaction -- I enjoy what I do, I'm happy with where I'm at, and most importantly, I've been able to find a balance between family, work, fun and activities that make a difference in the lives of those around me.
I grew up surrounded by volunteers. My grandmother was a lifelong hospital volunteer in Texas. My parents were volunteer paramedics for 10 years while I was growing up; since leaving the ambulance service, they worked with various other organizations to lend their skills and their time. Writing my Mom's obituary was a real challenge -- though we managed to list many of the highlights of the groups she worked with, we still couldn't fit in everything. And even in her last months, she was helping launch yet another venture for local women in business -- it just never stopped; it was part of who she was.
In fact, and on this point I'm sure we'd both agree, it was through volunteer work that my Mom and I found common ground after years of stubborn conflict. Thanks to her incredible experience, Mom did some early groundwork for World Bicycle Relief while I was there, serving as a volunteer consultant on volunteer leadership, helping us clarify and understand our needs and playing a part in laying the foundation for the amazing grassroots work that Katie and Rebecca are doing today. That connection brought us closer together, and is largely responsible for helping me feel at peace with my relationship with her, now that she's gone.
The reason I bring this up is that these past few weeks have solidified a change that's been building. While I've been fortunate to have had many opportunities to give back in the past, I would say they've been almost incidental -- my work with WBR was half staff/half volunteer, I was hit-or-miss on trailbuilding days or attending meetings, I had a vested self interest in ensuring we raised the money for the velodrome. Mostly, I used the skills I had -- writing, editing, page layout -- to help organizations I believed in, and let others lead the charge. And when you get right down to it, I fit in my volunteer work around my racing.
But now I'm going legit.
I challenged myself when my Mom passed away to take a bit of who she was -- the volunteer, the leader, the volunteer leader -- and make sure I don't lose it. The underpinnings were already there, and I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn't let the opportunity to use those skills I learned from her pass me by. Sure, I need balance, and I definitely don't want to burn out, but I've come to understand that my priorities have shifted just a bit -- that workout I have scheduled may just have to take a back-seat to the meeting I need to be at, that policy paper I need to read. I said when I started racing that I wanted to "make an impact" at the national level, and in a small way -- a couple of top-10s and 20s -- I did. But the best person I can be isn't on the race course -- the best person I can be is in the meeting room, in the Senator's office, talking to business leaders, writing essays. The best person I can be will make a difference.
So the month of March was pretty chaotic. It started innocuously enough, with a wet and cold trip through Snake Creek Gap, cutting some solid time off my February race. But then it got really interesting: a trip to Washington, DC, for the Bike Summit; a Southeast regional IMBA Summit two weeks later; in between planning work for Trips for Kids WNC and a host of other projects. Not to mention a banner month on the job side ... and, oh yeah, bad weather and a tough time fitting in a ride. All of a sudden, paths opened up and visions appeared -- and I found myself in the middle of it.
I knew it was coming, I just didn't realize how quickly. In the past few weeks I've taken on leadership positions in a couple of different organizations, all of which need support -- and all of which will precipitate amazing change in the world around us. It's going to continue to be a juggling act, and as I stood there last night at 11 p.m. discussing the state of bicycling and healthy living in our region, having been on my feet for five hours and not getting a chance to ride yesterday, I'll admit it crossed my mind that I was just 35 hours out from a 6-hour race. But in the same moment I realized that this -- this -- is where I was supposed to be, what I was supposed to be doing. This is my chance to make an impact.
And I'm certain my Mom would agree.