By Christopher Cudworth
The City of Chicago is a beautiful place to live and train in the summer months. I lived with a running friend and best buddy at 1764 N. Clark, right in the heart of Old Town facing Lincoln Park. From there you could run south along the lakefront or north to Montrose Harbor and back.
We had many wild nights carousing in the city. He was working on his Master’s Degree in exercise physiology and I was basically training full time, working for a running shop out in the burbs and writing and painting like a fiend at all other hours.
One day when headed out the door for a morning run, a nice-looking young man stopped me at the entrance to our two-flat. He told me he was selling magazines to get through college. So I looked through the selections of magazines and decided to order Bicycling Magazine. My roommate was already a serious cyclist but I was just curious at that point. My bike was a super-heavy Columbia 10-speed with shifters so stiff it took all my strength to use the bottom 5 gears.
But the idea of cycling as cross-training sounded great. So I gave him $20 for Bicycling Magazine and a subscription to Outside Magazine as well. Fancied myself quite the outdoorsman. Wore Patagonia. Owned a tent. Traveled to the Upper Peninsula and listened to coyotes running through the dead leaves in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.
Those magazines never came. The kid was a scammer. My naiveté about such things was profound. As the weeks and months went by it began to gall me that I’d spent $20 on nothing. But there was also nothing I could do about it. Except chalk it up to experience.
We all get scammed sooner or later. The world is full of people phishing the Internet and sending you letters about Nigerian bank accounts and how you can take home a million if you send them $10,000. Or whatever.
It’s true in all sorts of relationships. We give our hearts and time to people we trust and find out they lie or cheat or steal from us. Even with 2000 years of wisdom under our belts and a Bible under our arms, there are still ways for evil to creep into our lives. We screech and cry to God that justice is not served, but God has long warned us that the world is not a perfect place.
These days my subscription arrives every month for Bicycling Magazine and Runner’s World as well. I ordered both from a neighbor kid who was raising money for his school. This time it was true. I wrote out that order with a trace of wistfulness however. It made me wonder how I might have taken a different course in life had those magazines arrived the way they were promised.
Because while I rode my roommate’s bicycle on an indoor trainer all that winter, I did not take up serious cycling until about 10 years ago. The bikes I owned between that time were not worth writing about. One was a mountain bike by Raleigh called an Assault. The bike shop owner who worked on it one time looked at me and said, “Nice name huh?”
Tarsnakes of perception
That’s how life is sometimes. Full of tarsnakes of perception. The very things we think are doing us a favor sometimes turn out to be deceiving.
But you know what? Even the bad things that happen to us can turn out to be good for us in the long term. That’s called experience. Paying your dues.
It happens across the board. We train or work with people that we think are looking out for our best interests and learn that behind the scenes they do not respect us or wish we’d go away.
We place our faith in a coach or a relationship that seems like it is wholesome only to learn that their are ulterior motives at work.
So what do we do to overcome our own naiveté?
We get wiser. We hope. And if that doesn’t work we make changes.
We change schools.
We change spouses. We change our attitudes and learn to accept that we can’t know everything. Decisions that we regret must be incorporated into our collective experience so that next time we face a similar situation we know better. Hopefully.
Being naive is technically the act of being hopeful to a faulty degree. Our naive hopes are exactly what people in this world try to exploit. Sometimes they succeed.
That does not mean we should give up hope. We just need to use it more wisely.
Sometimes those lessons cost us $20. Other times we naively enter a race and find ourselves in a world of pain or difficulty.
Our entire lives are founded on hope and effort. We can come to the end and wonder what it is all about.
“Why didn’t I know better?” we ask ourselves.
“If I only knew then what I know now,” we lament. (That’s especially true of men, who figure they might have gotten lucky more often if they knew more about women when they were younger. They only wish.)
But the world fortunately and unfortunately does not dispense experience like a vending machine. You have to earn it.
Some seem to be wiser than others from the start. They run the race of life with what seems like such confidence and grace. But there is always a back story. So do not covet or desire what they have. Your own story is enough.
Others stumble and fall and go out too fast or too slow. We wish too hard and work too little. We give our money to people we should not trust and give our hopes too easily to those laugh behind our backs.
But God Bless you.
Do not quit trying. Do not quit training. Do not quit gaining. Do not give up. Do not lose hope. Do not stop trusting. Do not forget to forgive. Do not neglect gratitude. Do not sell yourself short. Do not ignore love, or deny it out of spite. Do not spend without thinking. Do not relinquish your self-respect. Do not let the world get you down.
The hard road of naiveté can make us all want to quit at times. But we run and ride because the allegory is true:It makes us better at many things in life. We gain experience we could not gain any other way by traveling the road of naiveté. Tarsnakes and all.
And that’s a really, really good thing.