The New Year, like a birthday, or anniversary for who knows what is but another arbitrary date to mark the passing of another fleeting year. A lot of time goes by in one year. But the New Year feels more resonant as a marker, maybe its that everyone is in it together, whereas a birthday the attention is focused on you the individual. There's more space to look backwards and forwards, as its hard to ruminate if you're the center of attention.
I much prefer to look back at the year than the opposite. New Years Resolutions are some of the most cockeyed shit we come up with. Gym memberships and voodoo diets, new planners and abstract hopes made less tangible because they are inspired by an arbitrary marker rather than a real desire to change.
I was stoked on 2014 from the get go. An unseasonably warm California winter, which was undeniably pleasurable, left us yearning for snow and after just a few days we set off for the great big white, aka Canada. It hardly disappointed, despite snow that was not quite perfect and mountain culture that was more than a bit strange. Regardless, it was encouraging to be jetsetting so early in the year, and left me helpful for a year that would be extar-international.
Before the ski trip I had jumped on a plane with my mom to Pittsburgh for a family event. I had wanted to go, but caved with the chance of seeing the Carnegie International and the Andy Warhol Museum. I question to notion of flying across the country to see extended family that I hardly know, but I guess its a downward spiral because if I never make these trips, I'll never get to know them...In the end I did have some good reunions, but it I hate to say, it was the world class art that really made it worthwhile.
After that it was back to school what was to hopefully be my last semester. Looking back, I still can't believe how much I shoved in. Riding almost every day, racing nearly every weekend, snow camping and hiking when I wasn't racing. In the meantime I was taking an extra class to write my French thesis, which for months moved at the pace of a first year student trying to pronounce a word like grandiloquent. It got to the point where a clever professor, knowing how I worked, told me I wasn't going to graduate if I didn't shape up. Ten drafts later I proved him wrong and he laughed over a glass of wine that he knew a needed a little negative reinforcement to get the engines going.
Graham and I had started the Puget Sound Cycling Team to race bikes in the local collegiate conference and that took us around the Pacific Northwest for two months, racing nearly every weekend. Bellingham was a highlight, we both got into the break in the road race and took second and fifth, and celebrated with beers at the brewery where my friend worked. The crit the next day, at the ass crack of dawn was made better by one of the most beautiful misty sunrises I've ever seen. I'll never like racing as much as collegiate racing I believe, there's a certain friendliness and community that can only be achieved when all the racers are at such similar points in their lives. But alas, I'll keep racing until my competitive bones say no.
To make my schedule even crazier, I took an introduction to mountaineering class. Why? I think I felt constricted by only cycling. There's so much to see outdoors, and two wheels can only get you so far. More than any ride, more than any French thesis, this class pushed me the hardest. Trudging through deep powder on snowshoes, digging snow caves to sleep in, learning to self arrest on cliff like hillsides gave me an appreciation for mountains in a whole new way. You've got to work your ass off to see the best things in nature. Rolling up to a viewpoint and snapping a photo doesn't count for anything. At the same time I was hiking a lot. Washington has such a diverse landscape, from rain forests to waterfalls to crappy mountains and I wanted it all before I left for however long it may be. I'll be going back sooner than I expected, but I don't regret a single excursion, even if they meant late nights, early morning and worked muscles.
In a flash, college came and went. One minute I unceremoniously slid my last paper under the door, the next two weeks were a blur of barbecues, bike rides, beers, rainstorms during the ceremony, frantic packing, and all of a sudden I was on a plane to Rome. I wasn't going to let anything slow my roll, and had found a job guiding bike rides in the Italian Alps. I spent over a month there, riding the most famous hills in the world. I could have stayed forever, in a blissful coma of cycling expenditure and Italian food and mountain air, but as usual I had overachieved in searching for opportunities and landed a fellowship to figure to travel to Budapest, Berlin and Leipzig to curate an exhibit back home.
In Budapest, I got an in depth tour of the contemporary art scene, meeting curators, art directors, artists, volunteers and gallerists. I learned about working with artists, curating choices, got a glimpse into the business side of art, but most importantly, saw how art perseveres, even when it is not easy. In Hungary there is hardly money to support contemporary art, but artists create and curates find ways to show it so that it may reach the world. It was inspiring. Leipzig and Berlin followed, my first foray into Eastern Germany, where I saw a blossoming of creation equally inspiring. Whatever humans may inflict upon the world, there is room for art I believe.
Then, in another instant I was home. Looking back, I shouldn't have come home, but I felt lost, conflicted with a desire to travel meaningful and an overwhelming sense of aimlessness. Then. I was caught in another dilemma. Work with art, or with bikes? I had attempted to frame the summer around choosing which might lead to a career, or at least a job for the time being. But i felt pulled equally in both directions.
I applied all over the place, and heard almost nothing. So I went to Las Vegas for Interbike. Interbike is the largest North American trade show for the bicycle industry, so my plan was to make connections, hand out resumes, and try to make myself a job. It was a little disheartening to say the least. Companies either would have loved to work with me but didn't have the money and so they outsourced the work, or they had someone already. I also felt lost amongst all the consumerism and materialism. The huge business side of cycling sucked some of the joy of adventure from me. At the same time though, there are some awesome people working in the industry, creating awesome things, and I had a generally fantastic time.
Living at home, my parents insisted that looking for a job was a full time job in itself. I didn't take it to heart, instead backpacking, cycling every day, going out more than I should have. I felt constrained in the job search and needed release in any possible way. But I needed structure, I needed things to do. I didn't miss college itself, but I missed how I had something to fill every moment of the day. Free time is a dangerous thing when you have too much of it. For that I treasure my week bike touring the California Coast with Dylan, and backpacking with Rafi, Ari and Jordan in Big Sur, moutain biking in the Santa Barbara wilderness with my dad and uncle.
I pretty accepted a job at a fancy bike job. In sales. Everybody could tell I wasn't that stoked, and as much as I tried to convince myself, my family and my friends, even working with high end bicycles couldn't encourage me to sit at a desk and sell over the phone all day. Then, a day before I was to start, came my savior. Not a white knight, but a white cube. The gallery i had worked for in Paris was opening in San Francisco, I had finally made contact, I interviewed and I was in for a trial period.
I felt no unease giving up a paid job with benefits for something with no guarantee on permanence, on pay, on anything but experience. Its a gamble that has already paid off, and should become a permanent job any day now. The gallery seeks to combine their tradition of supporting French Modernist artists with local contemporary artists. I get to help curate, install, research, work with clients, marketing, odd tasks around the gallery, everything. We speak in French at work, and I feel like I'm a trusted and valued member of the team.
I realize now that art has been my calling, and that I've known it for a while. the suffocating feeling I felt with the possibility of bike jobs is that they weren't going to put me in a position to make a positive impact in the world. But with art, I can act on my beliefs. Art is a fundamental part of the human experience, and I can help share that with the world. Today's world needs in more than every.
We'll be showing a young local artist in our next show, and we've gotten to be friends based on our similar ideologies, youthful energy, and passion for bikes (it all comes back to bikes fortunately). We rode yesterday from Mill Valley, doing a loop through Alpine Dam. We talked a lot about our futures, him as an artist, me as someone working with art. How can we use art to affect a greater part of the population? Where will art go in the coming years, and how can we become the influencers of that? I realized I had done nearly the same ride in reverse on New Year's day with Simon where I had put a photo on Instagram of Simon riding into the light with the caption "The new year brings new roads, new adventures and new thrills. Stoked on 2014." It was unusually prophetic of me, but typically optimistic as we playfully rolled along some of the most beautiful roads in the world.
To be in the same place, but headed a totally different direction a whole year apart is striking., 2014 was a year of discovery. That continues into 2015, but with more direction and more purpose.
This post marks a change in the blog, one which I've been meaning to make for a while now. For years it has been defined by stream of consciousness writing, spontaneity and a purposeful lack of rereading and editing. Moving forward pieces will be more structured and hopefully more consistent. There will be more about art.
And at the end of the year, I say the same thing about 2015 that I said of this year, I'm stoked, and I can't wait for the new that comes.