In modern culture, we're taught that personal happiness is paramount to a life lived well. Whether that happiness comes in the form of endless consumption, drug and alcohol use and abuse or the rejection of all things unselfish, it all seems to be tolerated and encouraged; as long as we're all individually 'happy', that's all that matters.
It's all total bullshit.
REAL, tangible happiness is a choice. It's a choice between fear and possibilities. When we choose fear, we retract. Other people are interruptions and inconveniences. Our hatred for the world grows and we end up bitter. When we choose to explore the possible, the exact opposite happens. We grow into kind, considerate beings who believe in good. We thrive. Others present opportunities for kindness and sharing passion. Connections happen and the world becomes a community.
I learned this because of cupcakes and mountain biking.
I began making cupcakes in earnest after a local sweet shoppe closed down and I was left without my weekly (or rather, daily) sugar fix. This led me to start making my own, which quickly spawned into a full-fledged cupcake racket that had me in the kitchen 18 out of the 24 hours that are in a day. And I did it. It took off. I couldn't make ENOUGH cupcakes, and every idea I came up with was absolute gold.
But I never would have started making cupcakes had it not been for mountain biking. You see. I've always been the 'smart one', but I was lazy and lacked direction. It's easy to bullshit your way through life... I know because I did it for two decades, riding on my intelligence and a keen sense of observation. As it turns out, a life full of bullshit is just a lie; living that way isn't satisfying or fulfilling. Because of my constant laziness and bullshit, I had no confidence in myself -- I knew I was all talk and all of the 'bad' or 'unfortunate' events in my life were self-created. That's enough for anyone to questions themselves.
Then I started mountain biking again when I met my best friend, BV. And I hated it. I freaking hated it! It was hard. It was REALLY hard! It was dusty and dirty and sweaty and I fell. A LOT. Rocks and roots and trees caught pedals and hands and feet and arms. It was stupid. But then I did it again. An again. And I got better. And because I got better and overcame obstacles and learned important lessons, I tried harder. I rode further and more often. There's no bullshitting a bike, or having bike skills. If you're out there and you crash and burn or you get a flat tire or have a mechanical and you don't know how to fix it? You're screwed. Really, literally screwed. And no amount of talking will get you out of it. And no amount of money or manipulation or a really hot, useless boyfriend will save your sorry ass. YOU have to do it. And you'd better do it before it gets dark or an animal eats you or you run out of water or you bleed to death.
And mountain biking kicked my ass. And it taught me the important lessons. And on those rare, horrible, awful days where nothing goes right, I still hate it.. But I don't. Mountain biking taught me I can do anything, even if it sucks. Even if it's making thousands of cupcakes in a broken oven yourself for a wedding that's 24 hours away. Even if it's hiking out 10 miles with no water and living through it. Even if it's training for months for a race, only to fall in practice and get hurt and not be able to race. Mountain biking made me who I am because it's not easy and the bike doesn't lie. Either I can ride or I can't. The hard work and practice and commitment and dedication never fail, and I can do it. I can put the work in and prepare and improve and excel. I can do it, and I can do anything! So I did. And I am.
I went from trying mountain biking to finally getting educated and certified as a personal trainer and losing 80 lbs to making cupcakes for people who like good food and great ingredients. I taught myself how to ski and printed my photographs I had taken. Then I built my own businesses because I knew it was possible. I created websites and started volunteering and working harder. I started trying to make others happy because my confidence grew with every second of work I put into the things I wasn't afraid to try and I wanted everyone to be happy. I embraced myself with all of my failings and every day, I fight a battle to be who I want to be... Everyone does! And knowing this, and remembering it, makes me kinder. And I'm trying to be better, but when I fail, it's okay. Because failure makes me human. And failure is part of awesome. And being awesome is a work in progress.
And that's the key to real happiness: progress. Work. Kindness. Compassion. Passion. Growth.
Mountain biking saved my life.