This photo was taken in 2010, I was 21. I’m standing with mum and dad. It’s been a year and a half since I first retired from cycling. I’ve just pulled out of a race in Mudgee. It’s the first time I’ve ridden my bike since retiring and it was last time I’d touch a bike for at least another two years.
I was desperate to shake the heaviness that pressed on my being. I thought maybe by showing up, I’d feel something, get over my fear of life, find purpose. Instead, I left just as, if not more, petrified of waking up to another day. To living with a nonsensical panic that sucked up hope and dumped it somewhere I couldn’t find.
I recall the night before the race. Slowly forcing dinner down my throat – like swallowing rocks. Trying to act like my gut wasn’t being tied in knots. Laying in bed as my fingers and toes clenched and panic filled the air. Air that was so thick with despair it hurt just to breath.
The simplest of tasks were filled with unrelenting anxiety and apprehension. “Quick Tim, let’s get a photo with your parents,” may as well have been “Tim we are climbing Everest without air-tanks.” Both tasks seemed burdened with fear and impossible to undertake. It just involved stepping forward and forcing a smile – yet dread still took hold. Just like it did as I poured milk on my cereal, tied my shoelaces or held the weight of a door.
I’m pressed with invisible weight as I write this. I’ve spent so much of the last decade with it threatening to crush me completely. All I can do is believe the fight is worthwhile. That life is not just found in joy and peace, but also in entering the forest at its darkest, and then taking another step. That life is not just found in standing on podiums, but sometimes more simply, just in standing at all.