Some Joy in Finishing Last

I always chuckle after I finish my bike ride on my Echelon bike because I’m usually in close to last place against all the other thousands of virtual riders. Your place shows up on the screen, on your phone, and in an email summary of your ride. It’s like a billboard in lights to my failure. My performance is so terrible that I just have to laugh. I often swipe away the leaderboard so I can’t see all the other riders who stand as a mockery to my riding strength. Who needs the leaderboard?

I sip my water and recover from my ride as I remember some good wisdom. I mean, people who don’t finish first become experts at reframing a situation. So I say this: I already won first place in the race against myself. I came in first because I did it. I already won the race the minute I decided to clip in to my cycling shoes. Everything else is just interesting feedback. And it doesn’t really matter when you’re just trying to beat your own best record. It doesn’t matter if you love to ride.

Sometimes I think about this problem of finishing last and laugh about it for the other areas of my life. I finish last in terms of professional rank at Penn State, and yet teaching is one of the greatest joys of my life. I’m great at it. I love it so much. I finish last in terms of social media followers compared to other women in my same area of publishing and speaking, and yet I continue to love the work I do. I’m great at writing. I love it!

I finish last in lots of areas according to the standards around me, but in my heart, I don’t feel last. I don’t even feel part of the race anymore. I just feel happy to hop on the bike and ride however long and fast I’m supposed to go.

Maybe one day, I will finish first. But I think it might feel a little lonely in that spot. When you bring up the rear, you find a lot of community there.

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