The metaphor of life as a road is everywhere: the long and winding road, the paths we take, choosing the path less trodden, taking a different road, getting off the highway, getting out of the fast lane. The imagery is seductively simple – life is moving forwards down the road and, along the way, we face choices about which direction to take. Radical choices equate to turning on to the back-roads, more conventional ambitions involve speeding down the main drag.
This has been much on my mind this week.
Last Friday I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview night for an event which is quite a big thing in my world – The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club’s annual bash in London; a celebration of custom motorcycles, art, design, photography, tattoos and film. The BSMC is an umbrella for a group of custom bike builders, artists, artisans, writers and so on who share a passion for what they do. It’s fun, and it helps them market their wares too.
I had one of those good times which is so good you don’t notice you’re having it. Surrounded by machines so brilliant you could get lost in staring at them, supping beer with friends and meeting a host of new people all of whom gave off a vibe which chimed perfectly with my own, listening to tunes, luxuriating in the things I love. I could have stayed there a week.
And I took that warm feeling of contentment in to the weekend, which was a mad series of children’s parties and kids’ football tournaments and wine with friends. Didn’t really have time to think too much about anything, until I found myself jammed in to a crushed train carriage at 7am on Monday morning on the first commute of the week.
And suddenly thinking about that lovely Friday night didn’t make things better, it made things worse. The BSMC event wasn’t a great night out with wonderful people any longer, it was a cruel glimpse of a better world, a peek around the heavy curtain which divides the everyday from the exceptional.
Which was when it occurred to me that much of the joy I’d got from Friday wasn’t just the event and the vibe, it was more subtle than that. I was surrounded by people who’d made The Leap. In each case, these guys had had their version of my moment on the train and decided to do something about it. There must have been tortuous conversations with partners, worries about finances, decisions to place quality of life ahead of income, willingness to be nervous, to take on the risk. Perhaps there had even been difficult truths to face: if you make what you love your business, is there a danger of polluting it?
I came to see, with a smile, that one of the reasons I had enjoyed myself so much on Friday was that I had been surrounded by courage. Not in the sudden and dramatic sense I used to see in another life years ago in various parts of the world, but a more gentle, consistent courage. These guys had all had the guts to chase their dreams and to aim not for riches and “things” but for happiness. Given the uncertainties of modern life, that’s bravery indeed.
The moments which define us are not occasional, they’re constant. Some people have realised this. They understand that life isn’t just a road with junctions along the way in which only your decisions about whether to turn off or not matter. They’ve decided to enjoy the whole drive.
I’m glad I know them.
NB: These images come from a wonderful gallery on the Elders Helmets Facebook page. They’re nice, and their helmets are great, so don’t steal their stuff (more than I have). The first and last pictures are by the annoyingly talented Andrew Zofka and he owns them. Don’t steal his stuff at all, pictures are his living (and you can see a gallery full of his excellent work on the Bike Shed MC fb page here).