Saturday, February 6, 2016

Please Excuse the Silence

A few days after the post you'll see before this one, I spent the week with my then-girlfriend.  I posted about our adventures and life together many times after that but have since deleted those posts.  They hurt too much.  She cheated on me more times than I'll ever know and lied about everything.  Literally everything.  The entire relationship turned out to be a lie.  Or maybe it wasn't.  I'll never know, nor do I really want to entertain myself with the possibilities, because that's no entertainment at all.  After I broke things off, she went out of her way to hurt me.  She sent me pictures of her partying half-naked with guys she was going to drunkenly hook-up with that night.  She called me on Valentine's Day 2105 after more than a month of silence just to tell me about having sex with the guy she left me for.  She harassed my friends once she could no longer harass me directly.  She tried to become close with my friends whom she only barely knew through me. 

I haven't wanted to write anything about my life since she left it.  No one has been able to fill the hole she left within me.  When you deeply love someone and they love you back - or so you think, at least - and then you lose them in the most hurtful of ways, it takes a bit of the meaning away from your life.  At least it did for me.  More than I miss what I had with her, I miss who I was during and before our time together.  I genuinely liked who I was.  Since then, not so much.  That's why I've had nothing to say.  I still have nothing to say, honestly, other than to fill you in on why I've been silent on here and will continue to be so.

Here's the story of love and heartbreak I wrote for one of my classes a few months after our breakup in the winter of 2014/15.  

Remember when you’d visit a wonderful place as a child and your time spent there was like a dream?  As you were leaving, you’d watch the place fade away through the rear window of the car, wondering if you’d ever return, and trying to avoid the uncomfortable truth that you had most likely just seen that place for the last time.  That was it; that was the same feeling.  At 22, the feeling was just as hard to accept as it was when I was a kid on family vacations, but it hadn’t come from traveling. 
            We had met two years before, but I didn’t remember it.  To me, she was another customer I had helped at the bicycle shop.  To her, I was “a cute guy she’d think about” after our chance encounter had ended.  She remembered my name; I didn’t even remember meeting her.  
            What I remember is taking the last open parking spot at a bike race in Maryland and coming face-to-face with the most wonderful girl I could’ve imagined.  I shamelessly flirted with her in front of our families, and I made sure we stayed in contact after parting ways.  That evening we messaged on Facebook until the early hours of the morning.  The race was held near where we had both grown up.  She was there because she still lived at home.  I was there because I was visiting my family for the weekend before returning to Colorado.  Out of sheer luck we had crossed paths again, and this time it stuck.  
            That was in April.  Over the spring and summer, our contact grew from a whisper of long-distance Facebook and text messages to a whirlwind of conversations filled with empathy, inside jokes, and as much flirting as emoticons can convey.  That fall she traveled to Colorado and visited me for a night.  After that we were a lot more than “just friends.” 
            On December 29, while I was home visiting my family for Christmas, I saw her for the evening and formally asked her out.  She happily said yes.  What followed over the next 10 months was the dream – that wonderful place you go on vacation where everything is right, everything is better than you imagined, and you fall asleep late each night eager for the wonders the next day will surely bring.  Not only had I found true love, true love had found me.  The 2,000 miles that separated us during the first five months were no match for the phone calls, Skype sessions, text messages, and snapchats we exchanged.  Being apart forced us to build our relationship on discovering each other’s true character through endless conversation.  We flourished.  
            That spring she made two trips to Colorado, which we remembered for the entire relationship as the best times of our lives.  As the flowers and trees around us sprung to life with brilliant color, so did our love.  One year after we met at the race, the beautiful girl I had grown to love with a deep and unwavering passion sat across from me at a restaurant in Colorado.  As much as I was attracted to the way she radiated warmth throughout the room, I was most drawn to the reciprocal love I felt pouring toward me. 
            She was a wonderful girl – the kind I’d dreamt about all of my life but never dared to actually believe in.  But there she was.  She was very Catholic, and focused her spirituality on being a good person.  She was the most outgoing, friendly, and truly kindhearted person I’d ever known.  She would stop to play in the park with a child who had no friends.  She would go to dinner with teammates who were shunned by everyone else.  She took care to conduct herself in a ladylike manner at all times.  She was disgusted by alcohol consumption and swore she’d never drink.  She had concerns about intimacy due to her faith and lack of experience.  That was no problem, though; I loved her for who she was rather than as a sex symbol.  Her presence was my heaven, as mine was hers.
            We spent most of the summer together and in the fall she started college in Colorado, four hours away from where I lived.  Still with many hours of travel between us, we grew attached to our digital connection.  Instead of being with her for a training ride or a night out, I saw the pictures on Facebook.  Twitter was where we teased each other and joked.  We tested the limits of the cellular network with texts and snapchats, and we spent hours on Skype and on the phone. Whichever one of us fell asleep first each night would awake to a heartfelt text message the following morning.  Social networking and digital communication was the conduit for our love.
Racing bikes for our colleges, we stayed with each other nearly every weekend for the first few months of the semester.  We were passionately in love.  I made her birthday weekend something out of a fairy-tale.  Why wouldn’t I?  She made every moment of my life beautiful.  We planned our lives together – her living with me the following summer and me moving in with her a year later to live together as she finished school.  We decided that we would have a Catholic wedding and travel Europe with mountain bikes on our honeymoon.  Our love and passion were the talk of everyone we knew.  
            The next thing I knew, I was looking back at the beautiful place that was our relationship, wondering if I would ever return.  I had a crippling fear that something wonderful I would never experience again was slipping through my fingers.  Before long, only my memory would be able to grasp the place I’d been. 
            Seven days after I saw her last – the first weekend we spent apart since the race season ended – she cheated on me with my close friend’s younger brother.  For the first time in her life, she was intoxicated by alcohol rather than by our love.  To the surprise of everyone including myself, I forgave her.  Forgiveness is one of the few things a person can regret having given, yet always be willing to offer again.  I regret forgiving her.  I did not know that the darling of my life was changing.  She was at college and living with new people – new influences.  The one thing I can identify through the drunken and depressed stupor of the following months was that she hurt me more than I knew I could be hurt.  When you let your guard completely down and allow not only another person to become part of you, but for you to become part of that person, separation is ugly business.  It’s especially ugly when one party is unwilling to part ways and the other turns to cruelty.  It is hurtful enough to cheat on someone and then break up.  It is absolutely shattering to cheat on someone, beg for and accept forgiveness, and proceed to use that opportunity to obliterate someone’s emotions for the next few weeks before finally breaking up.  
            Sometimes you are able to return to the wonderful places you visited as a child only to discover that they have drastically changed for the worst.  Sure, you are in the same place, but any resemblance of what it used to be has vanished.  It’s not the place you loved as a kid – that place is gone forever and there’s no way to go back.  
            Such was her change.  She partied – often without much clothing.  She binge drank.  She was promiscuous with men to a point I am pained to acknowledge.  She lost her cycling scholarship for misrepresenting the team by her actions, which continued to be broadcast in full glory on Snapchat.  The train wreck was catastrophic and anyone with a smartphone was invited to watch.  Her coaches, team and friends at college all turned their backs to her because of the reputation she quickly developed.  My friends on her team weren’t especially pleased with her treatment of me, either.  One memorable snapchat captured the essence of her self-destruction: her at a party in her underwear, drink in hand, with the caption, “bad decisions.”  
She took things further by continuing to torment me after we broke up.  The digital window into her life that once allowed our love to thrive transformed into a gateway for emotional agony.  She sent me pictures of her partying and showered me with drunken text messages describing her transgressions.  I was watching the girl I loved crumble to pieces from hundreds of miles away and I was helpless, unable to do a thing about it.
            What unexpectedly hurt the most was the sudden disconnection from her.  She blocked me on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.  She blocked my phone number.  She marked my email address as spam.  It was as if she had died, except I knew she was living.  The digital conduit for our love – the coded connection through which our relationship lived – had been shut off forever. 
            It was heartbreaking to have unwillingly left such a wonderful place in such a painful and hurried manner.  It was even more devastating to go back and realize that only a scarred shell remained of the place I adored and of the girl I was there with.  By night I dreamt of returning to a place that no longer existed; by day I was distracted by impossible plans of how to rebuild what used to be.  
            She was not interested.  My memory’s grasp on the place I loved – the place we both loved – loosened with each passing day.  It seemed like a past life, one that was distant and detached from anything before or after it.  And yet, it seemed like just yesterday the sun was warming my back as I reached out to her and drew her into a close embrace. 
The hurt went on when our contact stopped.  The lies and deception I'd been directly cut off from came back to me in ever more roundabout ways, which hurt even worse.  She dated and then cheated on one of the guys with whom she cheated on me.  I don’t know what hurt worse: knowing she dated him or being bonded to a guy I hated by having both been cheated on and hurt by her.  There was no happy ending to the story.  In fact, there’s no ending at all.  I’ve been miserable for the year since she left me and nothing in sight is changing that.  It’s hard work to get out of bed each day and to care about my commitments in life.  Many days I do neither.  As much animosity as I feel toward her, I want nothing more than to have her in my arms again.  That’s all I ever wanted to begin with, anyway.  But not the perversion of her that exists now – rather, I want the real, original her back.  But she’s gone. 
In November 2015 she quit the cycling team at her school and dropped out of college to move back home.  She'd gained a significant amount of weight and had gone from a top-5 finisher at national championships to being the lone rider in dead last who always got lapped by everyone else.  In 2015 I had the best season of my life: I won the Maryland State Championship (the race at which we'd met), got my Pro XC upgrade, and took 2nd place in Pro Men at the Winter Park Hill Climb.  I felt almost no sense of accomplishment. 

The last thing I said to her was, "The worst part is that I'll always still love you..."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Six Month Update - Time to start posting again!

It would take a lot of words to relate all of the things that have happened in the past six months since I last posted a significant update.  Oftentimes, pictures can be the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down, so I'll try and use pictures as much as I can.  Hopefully I've reached a point in my shooting where the pictures will actually be interesting enough to keep people here to the end of the post!  Now that we're getting into the race season, I'll be updating more often with some more in-depth and detailed posts.  Please check out the pictures and leave a comment with any thoughts.  Thanks for reading!  

At the beginning of the fall, I had the opportunity to go on one last off-road adventure.  I headed up a favorite route above Fairplay, CO to the eastern side of Mosquito Pass.  I've previously posted images from my first two excursions in this valley - one time checking out the North London Mountain Mine, one time checking out the London Mountain Mill.  This time I couldn't make it to the mine because of the snow and there was a large group of people checking out the mill.  I decided to head up the gut of the valley to it's northwest termination, instead. 

After leaving Mosquito Pass, I headed north towards Breckenridge.  2 miles short of the resort town, I stopped to catch the sunset over Goose Lake Tarn.

I enjoyed a quiet dinner of Mexican food in Breckenridge and chose to get back home by going over Loveland Pass.  I was fortunate enough to have brought my tripod along and decided to try my hand at night sky photography.  The results were not as sharp as I would like, but it's better than nothing!

At the end of October, I headed back to Lees McRae College and Banner Elk, North Carolina for the first time since leaving the school in May.  Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals was held on top of Beech Mountain, directly adjacent to town.  I traveled and lodged with my friends from Colorado School of Mines and our partners in crime from University of Wyoming joined us in the house we rented.  We made it to the high country just in time for the first cold snap and snowfall of the year.  Temps were sub-20 degrees the first day but warmed to nearly 60 degrees the second day.

Yet another trip through St. Louis coming back from Nationals!
L'Hospital was happy to see me upon returning to Golden!  Only at School of Mines would there be a dog named after a calculus rule.  

I was at home for a week during Thanksgiving break and for almost three weeks over Christmas break.  Hanging out with my family was awesome, especially playing with Sam.

Mom one-upped me with the camera body and lenses we got her for Christmas!

Extra cute, fluffy and cuddly.

In between the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks - the day before flying out for Christmas, actually - I explored the ghost town of Gilman, Colorado.  Gilman was a successful mining town located between Leadville and Vail, but separated from the two by over dozens of miles of forest and mountain ranges in either direction.  In 1984 the EPA declared the entire town and the immediate surrounding mines a superfund site, took control of all of the land, and proceeded to boot everyone out.  Absolutely everyone.  Not a person has lived, worked, or recreated in Gilman in the past 30 years.  I spent a day checking it out.

Mine shaft elevators.  The elevators were locked at the ground level, but I could feel cool, moist air from the mine below pushing out around the edges.  The moisture froze on every surface in this room, giving it an ice-age appearance.

This is what's left of the bowling alley after 30 years of vandalism.

At the end of my Christmas break, I headed to New York City for a long weekend with my friend Dan, who lives just outside the city.  I checked out the city's notable buildings, the subway, and then something a little more unique and unseen.  Letchworth Village near Palisades Mall is an abandoned insane asylum and orphanage roughly 90 minutes from New York City.  Opened over 100 years ago and closed during the end of the 20th Century, the institution has somewhat of a dark past.  For over 50 years after the village opened, it was common for the mentally disabled to be completely disowned by their families and given to the state.  Those individuals too disabled to refuse consent (mostly children) were used as guinea pigs for a wide array of medical tests and scientific experiments, often resulting in the death of the subject.  Post-mortem lobotomies were standard procedure at Letchworth throughout the facility's active years and they maintained a gallery of brains in the hospital building.  

Since 2013 was the last year for the legal sale of incandescent light bulbs, these will likely be the last traditional bulbs to burn in the first house to ever have electric lighting - J.P. Morgan's house.  

Brickwork on the smokestack of Letchworth Village's powerhouse.

Vandals had ripped the faces off of hundreds of CPR test dummies found in a supply building and scattered them in dozens of other buildings.

Hospital building, ground level.

The view from the third floor of the hospital.

The second week of 2014 brought USA Cycling's Cyclocross National Championship to Boulder, Colorado, just 30 minutes away from my apartment in Golden.

Allison Arensman, Brevard College

Tyler Coplea

Sam O'Keefe

A masters 35-39 racer on the run-up.  A spectator was offering shots of beer to racers, but this one decided to take the whole can from her other hand.  The crowd went nuts.

Dylan Knutson, Lees-McRae College

Tim Johnson, Cannondale Cyclocross World

I've headed to a few good punk and ska shows at the 7th Circle Music Collective in Denver this winter.  Entry is free, but a donation of at least one dollar is essentially required.  100% of donated money is split between the bands performing on a given night and all of the staff are volunteers.  7th Circle is for independent and underground music only, catering mostly to punk, ska, metal and acoustic/folk music.  Punk and ska are the mainstays.

Chad Lovings, the current head mechanic at the shop, is working on starting his own custom frame building company.  He is currently finishing his second frame - a fillet-brazed cyclocross bike.

During the last week of March, I drove to and from Austin, Texas to race a Leadville 100 qualifier.  I stopped at the ruins of an old ghost town on Raton Pass in Colorado to see the last remaining structure - a mission-style church - on the trip to Austin, and visited an almost ghost town in New Mexico on the way back.   During my five day stay in Texas, I stayed two miles from the course in Smithville, a town of 3,000 people about 45 minutes southeast of Austin.  I cannot say enough good things about that town.  It has an incredible amount of charm, history, friendliness and authenticity.  The historic district has endless blocks of well-kept, picturesque victorian homes of all sizes and colors.

Sunset over Raton, New Mexico and the Rockies.

The view from a bed in a caboose in Smithville, Texas, the location of the race.

Another Caboose view.

Although a few residents remain in this New Mexico town, the church is among the growing number of abandoned structures that already outnumber maintained buildings many times over.

That's just about all I've got to share for now.  As it usually goes with posts spanning this much time, I'm sure I've missed a fair amount of detailed stories... anyway, I'll be back to my regular posting this race season, starting with a trip to Grand Junction and Fruita this upcoming weekend.   Although it's been 70 to 75 degrees and sunny for all of the past week, we've gotten a few inches of snow today and more is coming overnight.  It is spring in Colorado!