Through The Lens: Cycling Through Life

The warm weather has arrived in the Midwest at long last! Was very excited, to say the least, about being able to go out cycling again. This time was different though, as I will be heading out with my camera  and gear instead of just a smartphone. This is all thanks to finally getting a small backpack for all the small cycling journeys ahead of me for the next couple of months. Not only enthusiastic about taking photos during these small adventures again, but also the added bonus of getting some fitness in my daily routine outside when the weather permits it. Anyone that has at least lived here for a few years knows what I am talking about. The weather in the Midwest can go bonkers sometimes.

Mountain Bike on the Country Road

Cycling on the open road gives me a chance to clear my head from current problems and enjoy the great outdoors. At times, it also help with creating new ideas and solutions that I probably wouldn’t get from just sitting and staring at a computer monitor all day. Have to get that blood circulating to my oxygen-starved brain after all. The only caveat to this is the allergies that kick into high gear during different times of the season. Lucky for me, twenty-four hour allergy pills exist. Without them, I would have to bring a giant box of Kleenex and a small garbage bag with me during the trip. Sounds like a potentially good comedy skit in the making now that I think about it. Another idea has been born!

As I do every time I plan on going out for a cycling run, I started to prepare by wearing my exercise gear of choice, along with the new addition of the backpack that carries my camera gear and a protein bar or two. A water bottle or two is a must, especially for going long distance. Have to keep oneself hydrated after all. Before you ask, no I don’t wear those tight cycling shorts and doubt I will ever want to. Been trying to achieve a goal for over a few years now, one in which would have me go a long distance to view and photograph. While I could just take an easy drive up there to do the same thing, it wouldn’t give the same satisfaction. It also was a factor in helping myself form my own thoughts and life philosophies that I continue attempting to follow in terms of my journey through life. Time for an explanation I guess. Here we go!

A couple of years back, I was attending college. Even though I had an idea for a career path in terms of an end goal, I ended up feeling lost in where my life was heading along the way. Felt completely drained at times and was struggling to care about anything anymore. I was just doing my routine day in and day out, because there was nothing for me to get truly excited about. Ended up forming a negative attitude and kept making excuses to not really try much due to my Asperger’s, thinking it was too much of a roadblock and that I was never really going to get anywhere as time went on. I thought I was stuck in a dead-end life with very little to look forward to, so didn’t put in as much effort as I should with any projects I had in mind. Everything I did felt like a half-baked attempt that couldn't be salvaged. A few times I wanted to just lay down all day and barely bother to eat. Didn’t help having to deal with not only the typical pressures of college life, but having to deal with some deaths in the family that started while in high school. No distraction could truly eliminate the grief. I was left wondering what possible future I had, if any.

Darkening Skies over Farm Land

Somewhere down the line I read about how exercising could help with such depressing feelings and going outside more often. Decided to give it a chance and try it out. Unfortunately, I found out that I had a pilonidal cyst right when it burst and got infected. I was then stuck going through one surgery after another for two years straight because it was refusing to heal. Even had to drop a college semester due to a relapse that delayed my chance to finally graduate with my degree. It was a miserable experience to say the least, needing assistance to get up or to flip sides so that I didn’t develop bed sores. Changing bandages became routine. Had to walk around very carefully as well due to the possibility that it could open up and start bleeding, thus ending up going to another expensive surgery.

After what felt like an eternity, it finally stayed closed. Eventually I was finally able to get up and walk by myself without having to fear about it opening again due to not being cautious. It’s funny how we take for granted being able to do simple tasks by ourselves such as taking a simple walk to the mailbox and back. It felt rather liberating when I did just that with no assistance whatsoever. Guess you can say I received a hint of what my late-mother's life was like, who was bound to a wheelchair thanks to scoliosis and polio. Makes one appreciate more what life has given to them what others would hope and pray to have. It also meant that I could go back to cycling again after continuing to rest and taking a good enough amount of protein over a period of time. Even with that in mind, I was afraid it might open up again if I was careless.

Off Road Destination

My goal back then was simple: cycle all the way to the county line and back. Predicted that it would take all summer and autumn to get what felt like a very long distance, due to how weak I was from laying down for a long period of time. Confidence was in the garbage at that point with everything that happen thus far. The first time, I went a very short distance of a mile before feeling too tired to continue that attempt. Even in this weakened state, out of the blue I felt that I had to keep on pushing while continuing to set small goals in mind. Go up towards the intersection for this day. Pass this specific home another day. Reach the railroad tracks. Get to the edge of that patch of woods up ahead. Had no words to describe where this persistence came. What was before a very faint light in the midst of the surrounding darkness was slowly growing into a raging fire with each attempt that could not be stopped. Before I knew it, I was able to reach the county line within a month’s time. I was surprised at how fast I was progressing despite the recent setbacks going against me. Before, I was on the verge of making excuses not to even try before I even got my feet off the ground when I first started out. Now, however, I've reached a distance I never thought I would ever achieve and saw all the landscapes I was missing out on. It gave such a wondrous feeling that had me in an iron grip and couldn't let go.

One day while cycling, I caught a glimpse of an amazing sunset that was over one of many farm fields in the area. I just happened to have brought my smartphone this time and raised it slowly at a level that just felt right for the shot. That is the thing about me. I take a glance and sometimes immediately know where, how, and when I want to take the shot right on the spot. This even applied to when I used to draw a lot of objects and rooms as a kid in a way. The photo I took during this trip would end up becoming my very first post on Instagram.

I was unsure on whether I wanted to try the social media platform or not, or even share my work for others to see at all. I didn’t think I was good enough at it and felt like hiding it in obscurity. My employer and good friend encouraged me to try it out however, since he thought the shots I took were great. Other friends and family also said their praises and even started to gather a following on social media when I did post photos. I was honestly surprised from it all and wondered if I was, yet again, underestimating my abilities. From then on I kept recording this cycling journey with my phone, while continuing to push myself to go much further in distance.

Each trip came a discovery on what existed out there that people tend to not even glance at, while speeding by in their vehicles towards their destinations. What started out with farm lands that seem to go as far as the eye can see shifted towards rolling hills with thicker patches of forest scattered throughout. Homes both old and luxurious dotting the landscape. Some within decent-sized neighborhoods and some more isolated within their own little patch of woods that were in the middle of farm fields. There was even a gated community I didn’t know existed. Eventually I decided on a new ambitious goal: cycle all the way to the shores of Lake Michigan and take a photo of the view. It was quite a lot of work getting into shape that was for certain. I persisted even with the odds against me both physically and mentally. In early autumn of that same exact year that I started cycling again, I was able to travel all the way to the entrance of Indiana Dunes State Park.

Sunset over Midwest Fields

Instead of continuing however, I was afraid that I would be too tired to make the return trip home. Was also not as well equip for the long haul as I thought, with only a quarter of water left in the single bottle that was brought. I turned around and headed back, very satisfied with my accomplishments in such a short period of time. Ended up seeing so much of the countryside that I never would've seen if I just kept going as before and stuck to the highways and small parts of downtown. It was a true adventure that I wanted to keep continuing over and over until the end of time, going further not just in terms of cycling, but visiting the rest of the world and view what it had to offer. Haven’t felt this energized and alive in what felt like a very long time and there was no way I would ever let myself regress back in my previous state. Taking photos while cycling also inspired me to take a new route in my life and dive straight into landscape and nature photography. Not as a mere hobby, but as a career worth pursuing in hopes that it can remind and inspire someone to keep on going, no matter the situation they are in and to see what they are missing.

That trip was still the farthest I have ever gotten. This year I plan on surpassing and finally achieving that goal I’ve set out to do, this time fully prepared for the trip ahead. With a small backpack carrying my camera gear, snacks and plenty of water, I will be ready this time to go the whole distance. No excuses this time. The only roadblock currently is being a little weakened from staying inside for the winter. Nothing that some cycling trips and some exercising every day couldn’t fix. It also helps having a positive attitude on not only your goals, but on life as well. Doesn’t hurt to have supporting friends and family that want to see you succeed beyond what you could have ever dreamed of either.

All of this because I was beginning to learn a few things. If you keep making excuses to not do anything, you’ll never get anywhere. Life will always be full of hardship and sorrow at some point in your life. How you handle it is up to you and your view on life. Making excuses and using scapegoats I find never truly solves the roots of the problem that hamper you, especially if you use them to just sit around and expect something out of a fantasy film to magically land in your lap. Whether anyone gets back up is up to them, their attitude, and their level of persistence to never give up.

During what felt like the darkest time of my life, I saw an opportunity to join a group that were thinking of creating a video game while eating lunch between classes. I had an ultimatum. I could either submit to my Asperger’s without resistance and just continue sitting alone all miserable while thinking I was completely all alone in the world, or I could go up and ask to join. While hesitant partially due to Asperger’s, I felt like I just reached a major crossroad in my life. The decision I made at this point could possibly dictate where I would eventually end up. I was feeling tired and frustrated on the situation I was currently in and knew it couldn't keep continuing like this. It needed to change. I needed to change. I needed to rely on myself to get up on my feet and finally just move forward. With all that in mind, I mustered up as much strength as I could despite the disability and chose the latter choice.

While the game never got out of concept stage, to this day I am still friends with them and was the beginning of a changing point in my life. The same feeling of a crossroad came about when another friend announced an internship with his photography studio. Despite my reservations on how good my work was, I took a chance. He ended up hiring me for the position and have been helping him and his business since then. I was feeling much better about everything that was changing around me as I kept marching on forward. The depressing emotions were fading further and further away, bit by bit. All of this from one choice I decided to make. Maybe that one choice you decide to make and risk will change yours for the better as well. There is only one way to find out. Take a chance!

Bright Sun of the Vibrant Blue Sky

I hope reading this will be inspiring to some of you to achieve what you’ve always dreamed of achieving and not let anything or anyone hold you back. I am not exactly sure what the subject of my next blog post will be about, but this silence should prove to give just a little bit of suspense. Wouldn’t you agree? What inspires you to continue through this crazy adventure called life? Let me know in the comments below. Until next time!