Dear 20-year-old Victoria,
It’s 2016, and I’m writing this letter to you a few weeks before you turn 34. Driving to work this morning, I heard a radio segment where the host asked what five words we’d say to our 20-year-old selves. It was easy for me to know what to say.
“Go buy yourself a bicycle.”
You’re 20, and you don’t have much money so here’s how we’re going to make this happen. You’re going to put down that pack of cigarettes. It’s disgusting, and it smells bad. It’s a terrible habit so just stop. Stop it now. That $4 you spend on each pack, I want you to continue to spend that money, but put it in a jar instead. After a couple of months, take that jar to your local bike shop and buy a bicycle. Nothing fancy, just something decent—either a road bike or a hybrid, either will work. Find a group of locals who ride and join them. It will be hard, and you’ll sweat a lot. Your blood sugars will crash, but you’ll figure out in time how to avoid that. Go ahead and get back on the insulin pump while you’re at it. I know it’s hard to feel like you’re defined by that pump on your hip, but it will pay off in the long run. The only person that cares about it is you, and that’s the truth. No one else notices it or even cares that you’re wearing it. Diabetes is a big part of your life, and if you embrace it now, your life will be easier and your future will be brighter. I promise.
Keep riding because the way cycling will change you will be a fun journey. It will strengthen your legs in a way you didn’t know was possible. You’ll see muscles begin to appear you didn’t know you had. You’ll be able to do squats, and you’ll be able to run longer distances. (Oh yeah, you’ll become a runner. Please stop laughing; it’s true.) You’ll become strong, and instead of seeing yourself as a girl with big legs, you’ll begin to see yourself as a woman with strong legs. It will reshape the thoughts you have when you look in the mirror. This seems like a minor benefit, but it will be huge along the way as you navigate life in a world comprised of comparison.
Your heart will expand and grow more compassionate. You will be calmer and happier and even more patient. Sadly, this will come as a result of people being mean and aggressive toward you when you ride your bicycle, but it will change you from the inside, and you will be a better person as a result. You’ll learn how to turn adversity into motivation. And then, in the most beautiful way, you’ll learn how to tap into that spiritual gift of encouragement. You’ll see others differently, and you’ll want everyone to experience this joy and freedom a bicycle brings to your life. Your diabetes management will become easier. Your heart will expand through this sport, and you’ll begin a fantastic journey. It will change your life for the better in significantly beautiful and monumental ways.
You’ll learn how to be self-disciplined and how to set goals for yourself. It will make you more responsible, and it will help you become a leader. You’ll learn how help others set and reach goals. You’ll learn how to help others feel included, and you’ll recognize when others do it for you. You’ll feel pride and accomplishment when you cross finish lines. You will also be humbled and rely on others to help you. With every steep climb, you’ll find a rewarding descent. The lesson here is to just keep pedaling. (You’ll also realize how many life metaphors cycling will bring.)
One of the most beautiful and treasured things cycling will do for you is empower your prayer life. At 20, you’re not praying very much, but you will start again. You’ll spend hours in solitude on the bike talking to God. He will open your heart and your spirit to see all sorts of things you’ve been missing. You’ll see the beauty in the earth He created. You’ll have incredible conversations when you ride with friends. Your spiritual life will become deeper as a result of cycling, and you’ll have incredible opportunities to share your faith, your hope and your joy with others.
I know turning 34 feels like a lifetime away from your 20th birthday, but it will pass by in a blink. You are going to soar so big, and the views will be amazing. But there will be some crash landings, too. You’re going to experience heartache, and you’re going to lose people that matter dearly to you. Grieve them and cry for the loss. But in those seasons, don’t forget to hope. Always hope. Hope for the future, and hope in Christ. Find your hope there, and not in the world. The world will let you down, but Christ never will. Take this bike I’m telling you to buy, enjoy it, embrace it, and as a friend once told me, use it for good. It will change your life and allow you to have a small role in the lives of others around you. It will bring community and open a door to some of the most amazing people, experiences and journeys you’ll have the next 15 years and beyond. So hurry, go buy yourself a bicycle.
Old Lady Victoria