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Lessons From Biking 245 miles Across France
This piece is more reflective on my time spent in France vs an analysis the economy. I will have an economic centric piece coming out in the next few days - and have economic content almost daily on TikTok, Instagram, etc and YouTube
Last week, I was in France for 5 days on a bike trip.
Zooming around the countryside, drinking espressos, and eating bread. It was an incredible experience - it was my first time (!!) leaving the United States, my first non-work trip since I graduated college, and it was built around one of my favorite things, biking.
I had spent the week before I left - (1) moving (yes, again) (2) speaking at conferences in DC and Kentucky (very fun!), and trying to deal with some panic attacks (not so fun).
I don’t like saying that I was stressed, but there was this deep rooted frustration that showed itself as anxiety - not uncommon to feel.
So I book this bike trip to France, a bundle of sadness and anger. I felt stuck, felt like a lesser version of myself, like I was watching Real Kyla move through the world with a muddied lens. Again, this isn’t uncommon to feel, but I just couldn’t shake it.
I land in France. My luggage arrives. I roll out of the airport, book a bus to Marseille, wander into the wrong hotel (my hotel was by the airport, not the train station), go to sleep, and catch the train to Avignon. We were picked up in a van to go on our biking trip. The other 7 people were all staying at the same hotel, so I was picked up first and then we went to go get them. It was a group of 45-65 year olds and me.
And the following few days were this incredible crash course in being a human. We biked 245 miles in 5 days but I also got to witness a lot of things - love and togetherness and deep wisdom.
What is there to know about love?
When some people talk about their kids, they begin to shine (I recognize it isn’t like this for many). A light from within them brightens across the shadows of their face, and I think that’s what love looks like. To bear witness to it was a gift - to really see the depths of connection.
They show you pictures, tell you stories, but it’s in passing when you actually see it. When they drop the name - “Oh, E would love this” or “I wonder what B thinks about this”. It radiates. It’s one of the most beautiful things in the world.
Marriages are partnerships. It’s bringing a sweater on a chilly night because you know they will forget it, but it’s also actively choosing someone. A choice. Choosing to do all things with love. Realizing that we are deeply, hopelessly, slightly annoying and a little bit intolerable but lovable nonetheless. Owen Cyclops -
“To see” is inseparable from the experience of “to know”. this means that your perception of something, and what is beautiful about it, cannot be extricated from the way you are enmeshed with it - and cannot be reduced to the sum of its physical parts by an outside observer.
In a media-driven world, we often think that how we look is the most important - what we see is what really is. But knowing is more than seeing, a function of viewership, sure, but it’s also time spent, words said, words heard.
One line that was repeated often was ‘if you’re not arguing, you don’t care’. If there isn’t dialogue about what to improve, things never will actually improve. It’s wading among the imperfections, the small bumps, the arguments that are frothy and angry and loud because love is an art - weaving acceptance and faith. Kindness despite adversity.
What is there to know about life?
You can spend your whole life comparing yourself to others. Social media, the scroll, the endless analysis of imperfections, blah blah, it’s a spiral that only goes downwards. Or comparing your bike ride to someone else’s - seeing yourself as a static unit rather than a dynamic being that might be feeling a bit tired that day.
You have to speak from the diaphragm. That’s the only way that your words carry, is when you give them strength. Belief begins in the body.
If you stand in traffic, it will stop. It’s still a gamble. The cars have places to be, you’re an obstacle, an obstruction to their daily flow. But if you stand there, with confidence, they might pause and slow down and then, you can cross the road.
Nothing is that important. Everything is that important. Emails are emails. The most important thing you can do is just be here now - maybe not all the way here, but give your body and mind a chance to spend time together.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote in a letter to his daughter -
Most letters from a parent contain a parent’s own lost dreams disguised as good advice. My good advice to you is to pay somebody to teach you to speak some foreign language, to meet with you two or three times a week and talk. Also: get somebody to teach you to play a musical instrument. What makes this advice especially hollow and pious is that I am not dead yet. If it were any good, I could easily take it myself.
Within the black hole information loss paradox, there is this idea that you cannot infer the initial state that formed the black hole from the final state. You cannot reverse a black hole (like we can do with most other things) and because of that, information isn’t really information. I think that’s why we don’t take our own advice sometimes. We think we are in the final state - when really, we are always in the initial.
We often fall trap to linear thinking - that x will lead to y and then z. We, of course, live in a nonlinear world so it doesn’t ever really work out that way.
20th century Russian philosopher Mikhail Bahktin wrote a lot on dialogism -
“Life is dialogic and a shared event; living is participating in dialogue. Meaning comes about through dialogue at whatever level that dialogue takes place. Nothing can exist without meaning; everything has meaning.”
We need others to learn from. We NEED to chat it out sometimes. The only way that we grow and appreciate ourselves is through loving others.
Special thank you to the people who taught me so much both on and off the bike.
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