After spending a week in the sun-kissed, humid, and sweaty state of Florida (all those adjectives described my time, not the state as a whole), I’m coming home feeling good. Not just because I rode the hell out of my bike, gained fitness, or got a crazy tan (and raised my skin cancer risk by .001%), but because I witnessed the acts of camaraderie that I seek. The belly-laughing, good-natured, hanging-the-fuck-out attitude that all too often gets swept up by jobs, obligations, school, and stress in our constant hustle and bustle life.
Why is camaraderie important to me? Because face-to-face social interaction is one of the keys to a long, healthy life. I often think of Dan Buettner and his book Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. A Suite101 article about the book says this:
…Buettner stresses the importance of being present and investing time into sustaining personal relationships. He encourages everyone to follow what centenarians have unknowingly adopted as a way of life long before research was able to prove it. “Your friends are long-term adventures,” he declares, “and therefore, perhaps the most significant thing you can to add more years to your life, and life to your years.”
I think this even applies to acquaintances, or even a random person on the street – a face-to-face interaction is a thousand times better than any tweet, e-mail, or wall post. What struck me about my trip is that while it would have been easy of me to be critical of my new cycling partners’ habits, be it meat-eating, religious views, or conservative political viewpoints, their disposition was just happy.
After every ride they would sit around in the pool, or in front of the TV, using it merely for noise as they shared stories of their lives, reminisced about the ride, or simply commented on the warm weather and its beauty as compared to our colder Midwestern lives. As I floated in and out of those rendezvous, I saw that this isn’t a new process – they’ve built these friendships on a common ground (cycling), but have sustained them through joy.
I can’t criticize happiness, and you can’t fake it. We have to take an active role in our social life (while still recognizing the time for solitude) and maintain those relationships that cause us to laugh deep, smile wide, and offer to wash not just your plate, but the entire house’s – just because you feel like it’s the right thing to do.
Mindset is such a huge part of cycling, and a trip like this did more than just put 500 miles under my legs: it showed me that our sport is one that allows the victor to embrace the loser after a race, and for two battling teams to train together in the off-season, all because we love it so much. That makes me feel good, and when I feel good, I ride great!