I learned a proverb from my Chinese teacher yesterday, “In youth, use health to get money and in old age, use money to get health.”
Like a lot of proverbs and received wisdom, this one gets it totally wrong. Everyone I know who used their health to get money is now a broken-down, worn-out old shoe. You can’t buy health. All you can buy are remedies for the shit that is broke, and most of the remedies are half-assed patches at best.
Of course it’s possible to wake up at age 65, discover cycling, and ride your way into much better health than you would have had if you’d just stayed on the couch. Likewise, money lets you extend life, get better treatment, blah blah blah.
But the idea that the purpose of youth is to accrue wealth so that you can purchase health later is b.s.
For one, if you spend your youth building health, you don’t wind up broke down and wore out in your 60’s. To the contrary, rather than shuttling from doctor appointment to doctor appointment, from hair plug treatment to liposuction, you get to go about your business with a minimum of aches, pains, and health issues. That’s the benefit of using youth not to get rich but to maintain and grow the only capital you’ll ever have: Your body and your mind.
Which takes me up to yesterday morning. It was five o’clock and I’d already been at it for the better part of an hour, with a whole stack of shit staring at me from my inbox, my task list, and my endless pile of paperwork.
“No way I can ride this morning,” I thought. “No way I can justify it.”
That thought kept popping up for the next two hours. “I can’t justify going out for a ride. Not today.”
By 7:00, though, I sat back. “If I can’t justify doing it now,” I thought, “when can I justify it? Isn’t the whole point behind going out and riding the fact that you do it precisely when things are most stressful and harried? What part of my life is going to go down in flames if I go ride? No part. That’s what.”
I thought about how the incremental choices to forego riding for work are what kill the habit of riding. It’s foregoing even the short, life-and-mind saving quickies that leads to foregoing the longer stuff, until you’re only a weekend rider, then a once-a-month rider, then my-bike-lives-in-the-garage-unridden rider.
So I shucked the guilty conscience and pedaled for a couple of hours. I finished and wound up with a day that was far more productive than it would have been had I simply kept grinding away.
Moral: The only ride you can’t justify is the one you don’t do.