On the bookshelf in my study stands a small photo block. In this photo, I am sitting on a bike, having just cycled across New York’s iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Clad in a beanie, puffer jacket and gloves, with a turtle neck jumper visible beneath my jacket, it is clearly winter; a form of winter this Sunshine Coast girl is not used to. My hair, much longer and a slightly darker blonde then, pokes out from under my beanie and falls smoothly to my shoulders. It was a good hair day (as is often the case when I travel and escape the humidity), despite needing to wear a beanie, and I remember posting something to that effect on Instagram. My smile, which somehow doesn’t make it to my eyes, perhaps because the photographer took too long to take the shot, is half-hearted and my face appears puffy. My eyes are barely visible, half closed slits.
It’s not the most flattering photo and there were better ones taken of me on that trip, so why get it made into a photo block to display? Why not use a ‘better’ photo instead? As with many things in life, it’s the story behind this photo rather than the object itself which is significant and meaningful. My mother and sister were given small magnets of this photo too; little did they realise their true significance. Let me explain.
I have long dreamt of riding a bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. No big deal, you may think. But when you live on the opposite side of the world, in Australia, it is a big deal and an expensive one too! On my only previous trip to New York City, in the middle of a September heatwave, with a toddler in tow, we didn’t even get to the bridge.
During the twelve months leading up to my fortieth birthday, I slowly but surely lost a great deal of weight (over twenty kilos) to realise my goal of being ‘fabulous and forty’ rather than ‘fat and forty.’ I achieved this through a clean-eating, low carb, high protein, minimal processed sugar diet, a combination of strength and cardio training, sheer determination and perseverance. Although I did other forms of cardio training, my favourite by far was RPM, a spin class at my local gym. Several times a week I would arrive at the door of the cycle room, select my bike (first in the back row, later creeping forward as my confidence grew), set up and prepare to ride. This particular cycle room was very dark which was a large part of the initial attraction for an overweight and underconfident beginner. I felt like I could be invisible in this room and that was exactly what I wanted. It also meant I could escape to wherever I wanted to be. The walls were painted with a scene designed to make you feel like you were riding over the Brooklyn Bridge, with the bridge and nearby buildings glowing in the dark. Many hours were spent riding in this make-believe scene, as the kilos fell away and my fitness increased. My favourite instructors knew how to urge me on to greater efforts, calling me by name just as I was feeling tired, so I HAD to continue and give it my all. I still have happy memories of reaching mini fitness goals on my way to my final weight loss goal in that very room. The first time I managed to keep up with the beat of a fast track, the first time I stood for the entire required time, turning up the resistance and realising it actually made it easier, not more difficult. Little moments contributing to achieving my final goal. Of course, fitness goals were set and reached outside that room too, but strangely enough, my memory of them is less distinct. That cycle room was a haven for me, even after I lost weight, gained fitness and confidence and tried other classes held in brightly lit rooms. I now attend a different gym with a very different cycle room which has natural light and ventilation but I still love my indoor cycle classes. I even managed to keep my favourite instructor.
My attachment to the bridge grew as I racked up the hours in that little room and I longed even more to ride on a real bike on the real bridge one day.
As part of a special family trip to mark my daughter’s high school graduation (yes, the same one who was a toddler last visit), we again visited New York City. Now was my chance to ride over the Brooklyn Bridge and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. I researched a bike hire store close to the bridge which would allow us to pick up a bike there and return it to another location not far from Central Park. Our chosen route was across the Brooklyn Bridge, back across the Manhattan Bridge, following FDR Drive along the nearby cycle paths before heading across to Central Park and exploring south of the 65th St Traverse, before returning our bikes several hours later to the drop off point near Central Park. The plan was for the whole family to enjoy this adventure together. However, teenage children often come up with their own plans and on this day, our kids decided it was too cold and chose to stay at the apartment and explore the local neighbourhood, rather than joining us.
Determined not to let this spoil our plans, my husband and I set out, catching the subway to the bike hire location and collecting our bikes. It was dull, cold and a little drizzly. I tried riding without gloves, but my hands turned numb. It was tricky because with a jacket on, you got sweaty but without it, you froze, so the jackets and gloves stayed on. Brooklyn Bridge itself was crowded with pedestrians and although there was a bike only path marked, it didn’t work out that way. It was a slow ride, which gave plenty of time to take in the view and savour the experience. I stopped frequently for photos and to enjoy the moment. Here I was, finally riding across Brooklyn Bridge on a bike. It was a ‘pinch myself to make sure it’s actually happening’ moment. Yes, I was excited! I made sure I had a photo to prove I was actually there and to remember the moment.
That day was special for another reason too. It was the only day my husband and I got to spend together, without our two children during that holiday. Although not the original plan, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise – our only couple adventure or date day that trip.
So now, when I look at that photo, it brings back all sorts of memories of:
- a dream realised
- determined effort and goals accomplished
- minor victories leading to major accomplishment
- growing confidence and self awareness
- increasing fitness and health
- travel adventures
It reminds me that dreams can become reality and that if I work hard enough and long enough at my goals, they can be achieved.
For me, it is still an inspirational photo.