Blog Post #1 - Welcome
Hello internet folk,
Thanks for stopping by, I'm Bobby Essex and welcome to the blog/travel log for Bob's Bike Ride, 2018. First off, I'd like to share my story and how I decided I was going to bike across Canada.
Growing up with an undiagnosed reading disability and ADHD was an isolating experience. From the outside, I looked like an energetic, curious and fun loving kid. Always getting into things, trying to figure out how they worked and never once sitting still. But on the inside there was a lot more going on, and that got worse as I went through school and expectations rose.
I was never able to be fully engaged by an activity, often leaving my mind to wander and my feet to tapping. In elementary, I was the rowdy kid. Teachers put me at the back of the class so I didn't disrupt anyone.. scratch that, everyone else. I didn't understand why I was the way I was or even why I acted so impulsively. Before a thought was finished, I was already speaking or acting on it. Looking back, I feel sorry for my teachers. These well respected and often excellent educators couldn't get me to focus, usually ending up with both of us being frustrated. This is when I started to realize I was different.
By grade three I had caught on that always blurting out and walking around the class was only getting me in trouble, so I tried holding those impulses in. Bad idea. I felt like a shaken can of pop and it took all of my faculties to sit still and be quiet. Faculties that were supposed to be paying attention to the teacher, what she was writing on the chalkboard and whether or not I had to go to the bathroom. I'm sure you can imagine the consequences.
One thing a lot of people didn't understand about me was that I was trying every minute of everyday to be better at school. I love to learn new things and actively seek that experience out to this day. But as a child I was constantly being told no, stop, sit still, not yet, slow down, back to your seat, not now and so on. My days were filled with reminders that I wasn't as good as the other kids and over time that I couldn't be as good, no matter how hard I tried.
Eventually I started to give myself those reminders and this all fed into the isolation I mentioned earlier. I was isolated by my thoughts, stuck in my own head, either daydreaming or checking myself to make sure I wasn't daydreaming. Isolated by negative outbursts usually caused by getting stuck in my own head, not paying enough attention to my surroundings. And unintentionally isolated by teachers, being sent to the hall or scolded in front of the class for behaviours I didn't know how to control or understand. Over time, I felt beaten down and started lowering expectations for myself, both in school and in life.
Don't get me wrong, looking back I did have a happy childhood. Having these thoughts hanging over my future, I developed a unique personality that made me resilient, empathetic, caring and optimistic. Not to mention a quick witted sense of humour that got me both into and out of trouble on a regular basis. I just had this ingrained sense that I wouldn't ever be able to reach my goals or fulfil my dreams.
One of those discarded dreams was to bike across Canada. I love the idea of it and wish I would've spent more time day dreaming about it as a kid. The country, our beautiful country, every mountain, valley, tree, lake, field, all with their own story. The wind in my face, so loud it could drown out the excessive thoughts. A challenge of my endurance and resilience, on both the physical and mental level. All the things I've prided myself in throughout my life. But I didn't daydream about it. Every time I was told no, stop, sit still, not yet, slow down, back to your seat, not now, by adults and myself, my lofty aspirations slipped further and further away.
Fast forward to when I was diagnosed with ADHD about a year and a half ago. I began making changes to how I viewed the world and myself. I went back to school and did better than I ever had before. I finished the year with a 4.25 GPA and earned my first A+, things I didn't believe I was capable of. I decided to question other things that I had deemed impossible and the bike ride was one of them. When I was reminded of it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I felt like that shaken up pop can again. I needed to do something about this idea and knew I couldn't push it away again or it might be lost forever.
I thought about why it took me so long to realize this dream and started to wonder if there were others with similar stories. I didn't want anyone to have to go through what I did and wanted to speak with people that understood my experience in hopes of making that a reality. I took a shot in the dark and emailed the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba and two hours later I recieved a phone call asking when I could meet with them. Since then it's been a wild ride with a lifetime's worth of introspection and self discovery. Trying to convince friends and family that I wasn't crazy and assuring them with facts and statistics that were made up only some of the time. All the while wondering if it would actually happen or not, but at my core I knew that if I dipped my wheels in the Pacific Ocean and started peddling, nothing would be able to stop me from jumping into the Atlantic, bike helmet and all.
Starting in May 2018, I'll be cycling from Vancouver, BC to Prince Edward Island in support of individuals with learning disabilities and ADHD. I'm partnering with the lovely people at the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba and hope to raise awareness and funds so kids that share my story know they can find an inner peace and do whatever they put their minds to.