Words by Juliana's Alex Pavon
2020 has proved to be the year of never ending plot twists and turns.The unexpected has become the expected, the internet is chock-full of memes about how 2020 has been the worst year ever, and the typical reply you get when you ask, “how are you?” is something along the lines of, “oh you know...” or “I’ve been better.”
It’s not to say that all of these things aren’t warranted. It’s true - 2020 has quite frankly been a total dumpster fire and things definitely could be better. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic with no sure end in sight; people have lost their jobs, their businesses, their savings and loved ones; parents have had to figure out how to work and homeschool their children; millions of acres of our national forests and wilderness have burned to the ground; we’ve seen the social justice and Black Lives Matter movement met with fierce opposition and just went through a national election that seemed more like a sitcom than real life. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So yeah, things probably could be better.
With everything going on and the constant buzz of 24-hour news, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the madness. It’s easy to see so much negativity in the world and feel pretty helpless. I get it - working in an emergency room I’ve seen the most devastating realities of Covid, I’ve seen the light disappear from my coworkers eyes, I’ve felt that sense of helplessness and frustration and wondered to myself how long things are going to keep getting worse before they finally start getting better.
But I’m also a firm believer that meaningful change can not occur without challenge and that out of every difficult situation comes an opportunity for growth if we allow ourselves to see it. With the end of 2020 fast approaching, it only seemed prudent to take some time to reflect on 2020 and recognize some of the positives that have come from this bizarre year.
For me, 2020 provided me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Just before the initial lockdown back in March, I had been down in Chile at Andes Pacifico. While I was down there I got a phone call from the admissions office at Northern Arizona University letting me know I had been accepted into the accelerated nursing program and that I had 24 hours to accept. I had applied on a whim and wasn’t really expecting to start school in May; afterall, I had a lot of travel and racing plans. I accepted anyway, thinking that I’d withdraw later and see if they would let me defer to 2021.
Fast forward two weeks and the world seemed like it had changed in the blink of an eye. I had returned to work in the ER where I work as an EMT, and it quickly became apparent to me that there would be no traveling, no racing, and that it was a good thing I had accepted my admission to nursing school. I started nursing school at the beginning of May, and I will be graduating as a BSN-RN in April of 2021.
With the new state of lockdown I was left with a lot more time to hang out at home with my family and my close friends; something that my usual travel and racing schedule impedes upon a good part of the year. My 96 year old grandfather passed away in May (not from Covid) and I was so thankful that over the previous couple of months I had been able to spend almost every single day with him.
As much as I miss traveling and racing, it has been such a wonderful thing to be able to adventure and explore my own backyard, without the pressure of having to train hard and ride fast all the time. I rarely get to ride at home during the summer, which is the best time of year here for mountain biking. Over the last nine months, I’ve ridden my bike at home more than I had in the last few years combined. I’ve been riding trails that I had long forgotten, or simply didn’t ride because they aren’t very challenging. I got to witness the construction and opening of brand new trails after a devastating fire and help with some planning for a new trail system with our local forest service and trail group. I’ve found my passion for riding amplified, rather than stifled, by the lack of racing.
But the most positive thing that Covid has given me has been a new way of looking at the world, my place in it, and my impact on it. I would find myself out on long rides just trying to make sense of the world and everything going on. I’ve always been the type of person that likes firm answers and conclusions to the question of “why?” Why is this happening? Why isn’t it getting better? Why do so many people have to die? Why are people so resistant to the idea of fairness and equality? Why don’t people seem to care? Why don’t people believe in science? Eventually I would get to wherever I was going, alone in the woods at the top of a mountain, and would realize as I looked out at the vast expanse of the Coconino Plateau, with the Grand Canyon far in the distance, or the view of Humphreys Peak directly in front of me, that I’ll never have the answers. That we are just a very very small part of a much bigger world and that the sun rises and sets whether we see it or not and that there are some things that we will just never have control over. I would take off at the top of a descent and feel completely at ease as I flew down the trail, only hearing the sounds of my breath and my tires on the ground. It was in these moments that I found the most comfort - the moments where I was able to escape from the noise.
If this year has been particularly challenging for you, I urge you to reach out to friends and family and find something that makes you smile. For me, that is getting outside and riding my bike. When it seems like the world is completely dark, we have to remind ourselves that there can be no light without darkness. And always remember, every cloud has a silver lining.Photos by: James ‘Q’ Martin