July 1 doesn’t seem to spur any of the usual January 1 cogitation that looks back at the previous months or forward to the next ones. But something about the last week of June inspired me to think about the first six months of 2012 and realize that the half-year just ended was an unusual and unusually good period of time.
The usual sources of goodness accounted for some of this. Shannon and the girls were happy and healthy and busy, which is the norm, and both girls changed in so many good ways. As fulfilling as usual, work got even better when, in May, I received a raise at work that will boost me, in the new fiscal year, beyond a psycho-financial barrier that has been off in the distance for years. And I’ve probably been outside Northfield more frequently in the last six months, for business and for pleasure, than I have during any other half-year period. Not including bike rides, I think I actually left the city limits at least once every week in June!
My bike riding since January, too, has been pleasing. Not only have I spent more time on my bike than I ever have before, but the saddle time paid off in fitness and speed, making my two gravel races this spring all the better. I like the idea that all I have to do to keep getting better as a rider is to keep logging the hours.
This spring’s bike riding also connected me to a new group of friends and acquaintances, cyclists who are more experienced and fit than I am but who are also very welcoming to the new guy – and who were great partners on rides and races. By putting in hundreds of gravel miles this spring with guys like D.S., J.P., and S.K. (among others), I’ve learned a lot about how to go faster, which has naturally improved my actual ability to go fast. And those 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. rides have paid off in being able to easily go 3 or 4 miles per hour faster over two- and three-hour rides than I could in January, much less last summer at this time.
In many ways, the group of riders is the first set of friends I’ve really made in Northfield, which is weird since we’ve been living in Northfield for more than five years already. Of course, I have been hanging out with other guys in that time, but I’ve mostly been connected to them through our kids and wives, through work, or, Northfield being Northfield, through both connections. It’s nice to extend my network of friends away from home and work.
Maybe because my in-town social sphere has expanded, my out-of-town social sphere has likewise grown in some wonderful and surprising ways. Acquaintances like G.P., S.B., A.F., D.F., and B.R. have turned into real, valuable friends, people whom I would have liked to have known better many years ago, but am very happy to know now. This has been a big surprise to me, though I’m not sure why.
These new relationships complement some old friendships that have deepened markedly since January – in large part because of a personal crisis experienced by one old friend. He asked for support and help and sympathetic ears from his friends, including me, and I think we did a good job of rallying for him. In turn, he’s become an even better listener and advisor – a great friend – to me. Again, I’m not sure why this surprises me, but I’m very happy to be surprised.