I was going to title this post “Panic Sets In,” but that is probably a title I should save for a year from now, when I’m frantically scrambling to complete my odyssey as the clock ticks remorselessly toward fifty-one, not when I’m optimistically envisioning weekends spent cycling three back-to-back centuries in three different events and three different states.

But in the dark of last night, panic attacked. I didn’t dare look at the clock, because with a semi-early alarm set, it would only exacerbate my fear. Yup, not my first round of night terrors.

Last night was different. It wasn’t about unmet work obligations, unpaid bills, unhappy suitors. It was the fear of their return. It was the ghost of 2001.

The story of that year is too long for a single post, but I pursued a hobby avidly, and had a measure of success. I know that the constructive eviction and my main clients’ simultaneous decisions to stop using freelancers were unhappy coincidences, but given that 2001 ended with me deep in debt and virtually unemployed, it’s hard for me to disassociate pursuing a passion from the road to ruin.

I’ve had my nose to the grindstone since I started teaching and tutoring full-time in 2002. When I first came back, there wasn’t an assignment I wouldn’t accept, a test type I wouldn’t attempt to get certified for. I was available 24/7, and I tutored students as far north as Thousand Oaks, in Ventura County, as Far East as Glendora, as far south as San Clemente, which is a stone’s throw from San Diego county. I’d drive father – Santa Barbara, Riverside – and fly even beyond that – Berkeley, Las Vegas, Phoenix – to train teachers.

The fear that if I don’t jump on every work opportunity today, there will be no work tomorrow, the fear of poverty, the fear of the poor choices that poverty leads to, these fears drive me, not ambition.

After my parents’ car accident, I had to ask my office to not assign me new students for a while, so I’d have some time to visit my parents. I lost a student, ostensibly over a scheduling issue, and that only fed the fear that I would be fired. Never mind that I was one of the top tutors (in billable hours, at least) last year. Never mind that, even without taking on new students, I’m still on track to tutor as many or more hours this year. Now I’m afraid that if I pursue this plan to ride at least 50 miles in all 50 states, I won’t work enough, and see above…

But then I think about the accident, how life can change in a second. I’m not getting any younger. Would I do this at sixty? Could I? My peers are having hip replacement surgery!

And then I head out on a training ride with my Solvang team and a group training for the AIDS Lifecycle, and I’m just so happy.

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I have to head home early so I’m not late for my students.

Balance. If I can find balance, I can do this and banish a few more ghosts.

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