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  • The other day I snapped a few teeth on my commuter bike's front chainring while charging up a small hill. I was expecting it to fail soon, but had decided back in the Fall to see if I could get one more salty winter out of the drivetrain. When something fails on a bike drivetrain that's seen 10,000+ Km, it's best practice to replace all the component parts together. That way, as the chain stretches over time, all the gears wear along with it, growing old together. You intentionally don't clean the gears when it gets to that point, you just lube the chain and let the oily gunk build up, because it actually helps keep the chain running smoother. You just keep on pedaling, hoping that it will hold on for just one more ride. Then one day something breaks.

    Collecting my tools and spare parts, I set about replacing the complete drivetrain and the wheels. I actually found myself getting excited at the prospect of this shiny new ride. Smooth bearings in new hubs, perfectly meshing gears and instant shifts... Just like having a new bike again. Then it dawned on me. I remember this feeling.

    How often in my life had I decided to get "one more winter" out of something? Just cruising along in an old tired job, or a relationship that had lost it's fire, or a town that had few friends... Waiting for something to fail to get me off my ass and do something about it.

    We are creatures of habit. We value stability so much. We resent the costs of change. We just keep on pedalling.

    Our lives are held together by habit, like oily gunk on gears. Masking the underlying dysfunction we subconsciously know we have to fix some day. Slowly corroding beneath a sludge of complacency. Wearing away under the gunk of denial, until – snap – something big breaks. The job is lost. The marriage fails. Disaster strikes. And when that one thing breaks... sometimes it's just best to change everything. Keep the frame of your life, but change all the components together, so they work smoothly again. Like new.

    It's so much easier when we're young. Before the mortgages and children and careers. We can just pull up roots and go where the jobs are, or go where our interests lie. Spend a year bumming at a ski resort, ride the continental divide, surf the big breaks. Being older means more complications and more arrangements to be made. But it can still be done. Few of us are actually as trapped as we think we are. We just lack the courage to change on such a vast scale.

    It's been 20 years since I last pulled up roots and started over. Every time it was terrifying. Yet there's such excitement in the new. New job, new love, new town, new school, new friends. I've never felt so alive as in those times of massive change. Today, I've made a good career in an industry I now know will soon decline. I can see the writing on the wall, but I find myself terrified at the prospect of changing careers again at 55. I'm paralyzed with denial, but I know that soon, something's gotta snap.

    I guess I'd better start ordering new parts...
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