Some days are magic.
I'm not talking about just a good day or a really fun day. I very much mean a magical day that surpasses all expectation, a day that defies explanation, a day that forever changes your world and leaves you a better person at the end of it. A day that revisits you over and over again to return even more gifts and blessings to you.
I'm not talking about a day that defines me as a person, although I've certainly had those. I did not change as a person at all. I think in my case I'm thinking of a day that defined my direction and forever has changed my course in life. For the better, I believe. So much of what I feel is shaping me today can be traced back to one single, special day.
To explain how I got there may very well take my entire life's story. How about instead I jump in at the point where we have a single dad with not a lot of money and two pre-teen kids to keep amused and occupied in Calgary. Bicycles and festivals filled a lot of the gap. We hit every festival I could discover that was cheap and not too far out of the way. My goal was to be outside and get out of a drafty apartment every single weekend after a hard, cold winter.
I can't explain why the magic happened on the week that it did. We were at Lilac Fest, we went to SunFest, we went to handfuls of festivals, sometimes two or three on the same weekend. We saw many of the same people event after event, we met many new people along the way.
My magical day happened August 23 last year. There are a lot of factors that lead to it. A festival involving bikes has to appeal to me. I attended Bow River Flow the previous year (it's first year) and while I originally felt dismissive towards it I found that we sincerely appreciated the moment. Returning was never a question because my kids hugely connected with it.
If you've been around here a while, you know what happened. In brief, I changed my mind about who I was going to vote for and decided I had to take a better examination of the candidates. Win or lose, I decided I would work with my choice and support him or her in their bid for office. I thought hard about choices, I weighed my options, I took it upon myself as a responsibility. I chose the right guy, and he continues to prove to me that I made the right decision.
Naheed gets to smile about how he ruined my life. In reality, I think that feeling of engagement was always there, I just needed a way to express it and a person who I believed would sufficiently represent my views.
But the magic of that weekend is not held solely within political re-engagement.
Stemming from Mayor Nenshi ruining my life, I began talking about #BetterYYC. Earnestly trying to do one thing each and every day to make Calgary a better city. Some days it was literally the one thing dragging me out of bed in the morning. Some days it feels like I'm completely on my own. Other days one or two other people jump in, renew my ideas and spur me on. I'm still trying. Trying to encourage someone else to do one thing each and every day, trying to do one thing on my own every day. It originated from that one day, Aug 23.
Last year, for the first year since I was in Jr. High, I rode my bike year round. I did it for my health, I did it for my lungs, I did it to save money, I did it to save time. But I did it. I love riding my bike, now I know that I can completely love riding my bike even when it's 20 below.
A bicycle is my single favourite form of transportation - of freedom. I know that I can personally extend it to the entire year and do so safely. That love of alternate transportation reestablished itself at Bow River Flow. Sure, I rode my bike in the city before, but now it became my primary choice of getting around. I got to say that for the census this year. That felt exhilarating.
I've become much more aware of Bike Calgary and I'm feeling a greater affinity to a community of people like me. I'm very interested in what we're going to develop for bicycle infrastructure in Calgary to make bicycle commuting more attainable to average cyclists. I've met Sean from Bike Bike who was immeasurably helpful in helping me transition from a fair weather cyclist to the cyclist I want to be. I feel good to ride my bike along the river every morning and see the dog walkers and say good morning every day. I attended An Evening With Mia Birk, and got my own copy of Joyride. I'm not sure if it's ironic or imminently sensible that listening to Mia meant I finally started to understood the Bow River Flow.
These are all ways that the decision to reconnect with my bike year round continues to return wonderful moments to me.
I thought that somewhere I spoke about how wonderful and surreal it was at the Bow River Flow to have a parade with the Ogden Legion Pipe Band in front and Calgary Escola De Samba behind, while my children and I were in the middle ringing our bike bells in time to the beat.
I'm not Scottish, but I love the bagpipes. Strong, bold and distinctive, they can rock you, they can be moving, the can express touching heartbreak. There's never been a pipe band I haven't enjoyed and when they're as good as they were that day I like it all the more.
But Samba? Wow, the Samba was new to me. It moved me in a very literal sense. It was incredible fun to overlay with the festival.
Years ago, my aunt asked if I was a drummer. Uhm, no, no I wasn't and just where did the question come from, anyways? Apparently I was tapping out a rhythm and she thought that it sounded pretty good. I must have a very strong sense of rhythm in me. In another festival somewhere near the end of the year the kids and I ended up playing in a drum circle and I got the sense of what it was like to really play. Another good moment.
I'm not sure who runs @yycsamba, but whoever it is found me on twitter and followed me. I'm a fortunate man, I probably wouldn't have sought them out. I've appreciated that they get my love for #FunkFridays, but I've had very little actual connection with the school since. Until #Sambafied.
Last week I got the invite to go to Endeavor Arts and take part in the school's #Sambafied event. I got to play a couple drums, I got to watch a whole bunch, and I got to reconnect to that kid that beats out rhythms on kitchen floors. It very much brings out a sense of fulfillment to be part of a group creating something more than you can on your own. I completely enjoyed it. I might have to do some creative thinking of how to take it up, but I'll work on it. It's become this surprising piece of my life that I value greatly. It may take me a while, but I at the very least I'm a friend of the band and someday hope to be a full member.
One of my favourite parts of #Sambafied was when I got to watch Valerie Roney (or, as I like to call her, @vlrny) hammer on a surdo while completely lit up with joy. It's easy to understand the appeal after trying it just for a moment. I want a little more of that joy in my life, too.
I've mentioned Valerie before, but the past week I've been reading her blog cover to cover, if you will. It's given me pause for thought and a great deal of consideration. Cause to reevaluate things I've been doing wrong or haven't been doing at all. I've reconnected, at least somewhat, to my creative writing. I'm sure it's horrible, but it's horrible *mine*. There are a few people around that have told me I can implausibly weave a coherent story out of my narcissistically-addled rantings.
And, while I'm at it, I need to mention Art Walk With Art because that was my introduction to Endeavor Arts. I went out in an attempt to stretch out my #BetterYYC experience and really enjoyed it. You have to remind me on that more often, Art. I have to get out to another one soon.
It's good to challenge one's complacency - after all, isn't that what I've been discussing all along? August 23rd, 2010 was the day I actively started challenging some of the complacency I was getting swamped under. It hasn't been all smooth sailing, I continue to learn just how dumb I am for a smart guy.
In the process I've tried to make for a better city, and I suspect I might be in the midst of making myself a better person for the effort. I am feeling more connections with my past, I'm remembering things I used to do that brought me joy that I haven't been doing. I've already reconnected with my love of space through the interest of my children, now I've been rediscovering more things I'm passionate about. I haven't specifically changed as a person, but I feel more freedom to strike out and be the man I want to be. Stretching, growing, feeling better about myself. Taking good chances.
I'm not sure where I'm going, I just know it's a better direction.