passionate fantasies or passing fancies?
motorcycling, sailing, baseball, and self-doubt
by eloise young
When I arrived in America, I was a woman with a mission. On Day One, I declared "I want to learn to ride a motorbike." I didn't just set about going and doing this, I did so entirely in the public eye, sharing my hopes and plans, advances and setbacks with everyone I met. So that, like it or not, my interests were clear, and I was distinctive through them.
And I loved it. Taking the classes, choosing a motorcycle to buy, meeting and hanging out with bikers, obtaining and wearing the right gear, heading out on my own into the countryside with a tank bag and a map and a day's adventures ahead of me. This meant so much to me that a day's riding would be therapy for any stress or sorrow. I lived for 10 weeks in another country - and bought a bike to ride while I was there. I rode it to my client site. I seriously inconvenienced my colleagues with the intrusion of loads of gear. They were kind and accommodating; they understood.
As I became better-known, I became more and more identified with my passion for motorcycles. As my confidence on my bike grew, I would bring it closer to home and even dare to ride it where I might be seen by my non-biking friends. Eventually I was in a photo-shoot with my bike and had a whole article published about the joy I found in pursuing my passion.
What next? I needed to move somewhere more biker-friendly. Somewhere with 12 months of riding season, not just 8. California. Obviously. So I made my career plans adjust to fit that aim. And what better way to get there than riding my bike across the country from my old home to my new? I took advice. I bought a better bike. I kitted it up. It was beautiful. I tested it out on a little local spin (970 miles in two days). Perfect.
My 18 day trip across the country on my own on my bike was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. The discovery of new places, the meeting with new and interesting people, the affirmation of my ability to transport myself through the air and over the ground and the sense of accomplishment at reaching my destination each day combined to bring me great joy. Most of all, I was a biker. No doubt about it, I was engaged in, and loving to bits, an activity that would make me the envy of the vast proportion of bikers all around the world. I loved riding, I loved my bike, I loved my trip.
Everything was going superbly. My passion and I were becoming entwined more closely with each month that went by. Then, all of a sudden, I was taken away from my bike for many months. At first, I fretted. I borrowed another machine for a while. But gradually I resigned myself to being a biker without a ride, for a while at least.
Now I am back in California. Through my window as I write this I see a beautiful blue sky, with bright sunshine, and below that, the city where my motorcycle currently rests. My beautiful blue motorcycle. But I am typing this story. I haven't thrown on my gear, jumped on a bus, taken a train, set forth to bring it back home to me, to reclaim my love.
It's not because I don't have time. I do. I don't have to be writing this piece right now. I could wait until it were dark to do that. Or raining. Or not write one at all (and why am I writing, anyway?).
It's not because it's difficult to get there. I know the way; I could drive a car or take my regular bus.
It's because I'm scared. Scared of falling off? Yes, that. But that's not a new fear, or one I can't overcome. I'm scared that I no longer have the passion to love my bike and my biker life. Scared to find out that I'm a fraud, that the defining feature of my identity is a fantasy, a fad I've grown through. Scared to admit that it might be possible. Scared to re-commit my time and energy to an all-consuming pursuit - or to become precisely the kind of biker I mocked: one who spends more time talking bikes or polishing bikes than riding them.
Has the passion really gone away? I don't know. Will I rediscover it with a 650cc engine turning over between my legs? Possibly. Can I force it to come back, through deliberate effort? Probably. And that's what scares me most. If my personality is that adjustable, then who am I?
I had a passion for sailing, just a short year ago. I went on a trip, I met a guy, I liked him, he liked to sail. Well looky-here. Suddenly I loved to sail, too. I took lessons. I swore I would become a sailor. And then I realized he wasn't interested in me, well not "like that," anyway. I didn't talk about sailing much, again.
How did I become a biker? An ex-boyfriend of mine was a biker. And I rode around on the back of his bike for a summer ("pillion," we call it, where I come from). Now did I just uncover and reveal something always there, buried, in myself when I went out with him and found a biking passion - or did I just take a piece of his passion with me for a while? How can I know what's real?
A colleague recently asked me whether I had been a soccer fan in my home country. "No," I replied, "I was never into sports at all until I became a Red Sox fan." He was very surprised. "But you are so passionate about it. I can't believe you can be this way when you haven't followed sports all your life." Well, I can, and I am. But a friend of mine caught me up in his Red Sox world. Now I carry that energy with me. I feel the pain, I share the joy, I wear the cap, but is it really mine?
Everything I am, I became because of the influence of someone else in my life. I seem to have deep passions, but I meld them to the company I keep. I have survived this flux in my nature by breaking away and moving on every few years; cutting away from my old friends and finding new. But I am tired of that. I want to have friends who really know me - or who know the real me. With all these passing fancies, to have a constant friend, and a constant self.
But now I find I have become a Contributor on Intrepid Media. Why? Is this to be my new passion, or just a passing fancy? Is the cycle starting over, again?
6.21.02 @ 11:31a
In the end, does it matter why you love to do something?
As long as you're being honest with yourself, and you do it because you really love to, and not because you want someone else to love you, then it's all good.
6.21.02 @ 12:05p
That's all very well, but how do you know if you are being honest with yourself? When your motivations are constantly changing, and so entangled that you don't know which is cause and which effect, how can you tell?
6.21.02 @ 12:41p
I believe that a person is a work in progress at all times. The passion is all you - the object of that passion may change, but the general enthusiasm and willingness to immerse yourself in new experiences is part of what makes you YOU. Sure, some of what you get interested in may be because someone else is interested in it and you're interested in them. If and when that interest fades, you come out richer for the experience and more knowledgeable in general. And there ain't nothing wrong with THAT.
6.23.02 @ 2:15p
Well, today I met up by arrangement with some local women motorcyclists. They were incredibly helpful and encouraging. Together we manoeuvred my bike out of its hideaway and I was escorted to a gas station to get some air for the tires. I rode the bike home, and by the time I got here, I had this grin stuck on my face which just wouldn't come off. Now I am off to retrieve the car, and start applying some TLC to the bike. Whohoo!
I guess this means that perhaps I am a biker after all?
6.23.02 @ 3:57p
I think I could have passionate fantasies about "some local women motorcyclists."
I had a good friend who was extremely passionate, but whose attention span was such that she could never devote herself to one thing before she would be captivated by another -- and then she would burn solely for the new thing. (Which explains why, to her chagrin, I would not have a relationship with her.)
Despite her flightiness, I still encouraged her to pursue whatever her bliss du jour was...because I think until you do find it, what is it costing you to search? Money? Time? Compared to the reward and satisfaction you'll reap once you've stumbled or leapt into your niche, they're nothing. As Eloise's goofy grin bears witness.
7.1.02 @ 12:16a
Trying something new is not an example of fleeting fancy or not knowing one's self. As Juli said, I believe it is through trying new experiences that we actually learn more about ourselves. To bike across the United States is a fine example of character, confidence and verve. If you never do that again, it doesn't lessen the importance of the experience to you or what it says about you in general.
I think people are perceived as shallow when they only do or say things in order to get a reaction or attention from others.
Obviously, biking was introduced to you by someone else, but what you feel inside because of your passion for it should be a benchmark of reality for you.
12.12.05 @ 1:53a
So, I now have another motorcycle, which I rode twice and then left to rust outside my house. I have given up any serious efforts to go sailing. I did not follow the Red Sox at all last year. And there isn't any new passion to replace these departed ones.
It doesn't feel right. Something is missing. I don't know who I am any more. What should I do?
12.12.05 @ 3:07a
12.13.05 @ 3:47p
No, Russ. I may be daft, but I'm not that desperate. Any other ideas?
12.14.05 @ 1:36p
'twere in jest, of course. Scrapbooking is the last step before cafeteria lines and afternoon bingo.
Part of it is, of course, dependent on environment. If you're staring at the same view, the same people, the same stuff all the time, it's easy to fall into ruts, whether they be job-related, social or whatever. Changing the venue, and giving yourself the time to actually feel that change, is important. A week's vacation isn't enough.
I could offer the same old advice: take a class, join a church, dye your hair, expand your sexual repertoire, quit your job and become a nanny for an overworked couple in the Midwest where the beer and baseball is great... but these may only be short-term solutions that don't address the deeper-seeded issue that you alluded to way-back-when at this column's publication.
I used to move every couple of years -- sometimes even sooner. Nothing grounded me 'til I got married. And then, a passion for something bigger than myself enveloped me. And I'll readily admit that there are times when I itch to get away from the restrictions a family imposes. I can't just take off for a week, or quit my job because my boss is a jerk, or whatever. I never get the kind of rejuvenative experience I used to get on a vacation, because I have to be responsible for three other people. But then, ultimately, there is a deeper feeling that makes all of that sacrifice acceptable. I can go to bed fulfilled because I've kept my family safe, warm, healthy and fed for another day. My passion may not be as flashy as cross-continent travel or sports fanaticism, but it's what gets me out of bed each morning. It's schmaltzy, but it's true.
And, when I need something to call my own, I kick everyone out of the kitchen and cook like a demon. Or pop Civ3 in the computer and rule the world. Little passions make up the difference, without being all-encompassing.
(And to answer your rhetorical question: passing fancy, apparently, as you haven't written a new column in three years!)