One day you know with every fiber of you’re being that you are on a clear path in life that not only has meaning and purpose but also gives you a sense of satisfaction at a deeply personal level; then the next day, you find that a nearly fifteen year career no longer makes a lick of sense. How does one muster up the courage to make the decision to make a life altering change that is basically starting over from scratch? How does one come to hitting the proverbial reset button and initiating a change that is not only needed but critically necessary to maintain any semblance of balance and sanity in your life? Think about it. Your identity as an adult, of how you are perceived, for so many of us is tied up in our careers. It’s what we’re known for. It’s how we make a living on this big blue marble. Well, the necessity and the answers came for me from a near death experience, some professional help, and a lot of soul searching. Not to mention the enormous amount of support and encouragement from those who love me, for who I am. That scenario was exactly what I was faced with late in 2008.
It’s worth a little perspective and history to tell this traumatic and life changing story. The basics for now are that I am a 4thgeneration Reno resident who graduated from Reno High School in 1985 just like my parents Cal (1956) and Karen (1959). Aside from a three year stay in New Jersey during middle school, and four years in the US Navy, I have lived in Reno.
Now, a more relevant and recent history needs to be told to give this story some backbone.
In 1994 after completing my degree in Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno where I found my passion for teaching others through tutoring, I spent the year earning my teaching credentials at Sierra Nevada College. In 1995 I secured a position as a science teacher at Reed High School here in Reno, Nevada and my path was set in motion. I spent five years at Reed honing my craft and learning how to help others learn. Then, in 1999 the opportunity to move to a new high school that was being built became available. I applied, interviewed and began working at North Valleys High School (NVHS) for the schools opening in the 2000-2001 school year.
For the next seven years, I was in my element. I was part of an amazing team of educators that were making a real difference in the lives of the kids and families in the North Valleys community. I made it my mission as a classroom Biology teacher to deliver quality content in unique and engaging ways and I was good at it. Then in 2005, I was given the chance to test my talents as the new Dean of Students at NVHS. My path was shifting from classroom teacher to instructional leader and it still gave me the same sense of satisfaction. I enrolled in the University of Phoenix (UoP) with my wife Kristi as we both pursued our MAEd or Masters in Educational Leadership. Both of our paths were focused on taking public education forward by leading as administrators. By late April 2007, having spent every Wednesday night from 6:00 to 10:00 pm for the last two years on the UoP campus, we were all but finished except for our final presentations. Then on May 1, 2007, days before my final presentation, while on a return trip from the Washoe County School District office to NVHS, my life changed in an instant.It was, “The day in May that changed my way.”
At approximately 9:00am while traveling northbound on North Virginia near the Ahern Rental just south of the Bonanza Casino, something inexplicable happened. Since I have no memory of the event I could only rely on the eyewitness accounts and the sterile police report. Apparently, something happened to me and I drifted across two lanes of traffic and struck an oncoming flatbed truck with enough force to knock it on its side with my 2003 Honda Element. I was tested at the scene by the paramedics and it was determined that drugs and alcohol were not a factor then I was rushed to the ER to put me back together.
I spent the next week in the hospital. My left humorous (upper arm bone) was snapped in two like a pencil and will for the rest of my days be held together with a titanium rod and screws. My left tricep muscle was bifurcated and had to be reattached. My left Radius and Ulna (forearm bones) were so shattered that they required 3 titanium plates, 23 screws and some bone growth protein injected to speed the healing process. My face also had to undergo reconstructive surgery to repair my lower lip that was nearly torn off and my left eyelid and surrounding tissue which needed the skilled hands of my amazing plastic surgeon.
After six months of healing with the bone growth protein in my lower arm, I returned to have the hardware removed and I began physical therapy in efforts to regain as much of my range of motion as possible. On a side note, I asked my Mom to do something creative with my spare parts. She made a hanging mobile. It’s kind of humorous in a macabre way. I like it.
So there is one of my near death experiences. The next few months would turn out to be much more painful, emotionally than the previous week had been. Returning to school the following fall, it was clear to me that something was wrong. I had healed enough physically in 7 weeks that I was actually back on a bike. It was the recurring questions that kept popping into my head that didn't let me jump back into life with the same passion I had before this incident. Who am I? What is my purpose? What is really important to me? Do I truly believe in what I’m doing? It took a few months to figure out that what I was feeling was real and was not going away.
I went to work nearly every day for three months on the verge of tears with a soul crushing amount of anxiety and self-doubt. I chalked it up to my way of processing the tragic event I had experienced and thought it would pass. Three months later, it was not much improved. I needed help. I needed real professional help.
One of the best outlets for my turmoil that brought some relief came when I was on the bike and focused on my passion of road cycling. I have ridden a road bike since 1992 when I bought my first Trek 2000. From there I got hooked on training and riding the Death Ride and other long distance events. It was also around this time of internal struggle that I was introduced to IndoorPower and a new way to focus my training. With that training along with an invitation to join a cycling race team, I unleashed a new purpose and focus in my life. By late in 2007 it was clear to me that dispite my new found love of cycling, I needed to make a really tough decision about my future in education.
I finally opened up to my wife, Kristi and explained everything I was feeling and dealing with, it was her response that sent chills through me. She encouraged me. She wanted me to find something that gave me the same sense of purpose and drive I had before the accident, and go after it. The love I feel for my wife to this day, comes from our mutual commitment and respect we have for one another. All I need to do is remember this day that she gave me her unquestionable approval to follow my heart to be reminded of that love. I am truly blessed to have her in my life.
Knowing that I would be giving up a very significant part of our household income to follow my heart, I spent the next few months working with a psychologist and doing some serious soul searching. At the end of this process, I handed in my letter of resignation in March of 2008 which would terminate my employment with Washoe County School District in August of that year. I vividly remember the sense of relief I felt that day. I knew there were a lot of unknowns ahead of me, but this was the right path. With Kristi’s combined financial, emotional and psychological support, I immediately enrolled in classes at TMCC to pursue my new path as a Personal Trainer. In late 2008, I became a Certified Personal Trainer just about the time the economy did what it did. It was not good timing to become a new small business owner so after a year and a half of trying to make a go of it, I realized I needed to learn more of life’s little lessons and make some different choices.
April 5, 2009. While on a training ride with the cycling team I joined, coming down from Virginia City into Carson City via the Truck Route, I struck, or was struck by an oncoming SUV while navigating a right hand turn. The police at the scene called it a no fault accident and it was my word along with my teammate Chas who was right behind me against the three other passengers in the SUV. The last thing I remember before waking up in the ER was the vague memory of a sense of abject terror of an oncoming car and the reality that there was nothing I could do to prevent me hitting it at nearly 40 mph with my face. Care flight was involved and although I have a sliver of a memory, I suspect the photograph my teammate took is a clearer image than my memory. I was meant to live another day for another purpose and make some different choices. So as it stands at this point in my story, within a span of about 24 months I received not one, but two TBI’s or Traumatic Brain Injuries. I sought professional help and learned that I was dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) like symptoms of fear and anxiety. With the help from my psychologist, I am learning to deal with my new reality.
Those two traumatic events happened to me. They are part of me and my journey on this Earth. They clearly shaped and influenced me. It is because of them that I have come to have an understanding of the preciousness of life that I had not known before. I know that my path, my choices, brought me to where I am today. What I've taken from these and other teachable moments is to channel my energy and passions for living with a focus and intensity, I did not have before the accidents. Life happens NOW.
So, In 2011, I took the first of many steps on my new journey. I earned my Level II USA Cycling Coaches Certification and went on to host a Bike Skills Clinic Series to educate local cyclists. That experience cemented my understanding of what I wanted to do. My passion and sense of purpose returned when I melded my love of teaching with my passion for cycling.
In August of 2011, when I embarked on the journey of starting the Reno Cycling Team which is where my path begins to join up with Nature’s Bakery. Before I could muster the resources to create a local cycling team, it was clear that I needed to begin with educating a broader base of cyclists that were interested in learning about what road cycling is all about. With the help of my good friends and owners of Reno Cycling & Fitness, Randy and Carla Klefman, with the help of fellow cyclist Paul Kempler, we formed the Reno Cycling Club. The club officially began in May of 2012 and before we knew it, we had over 50 members of all ability levels showing up for rides. We also now have over 150 people following us on out www.meetup.com group page. So on weekends when not racing, I would put on a beginners skills clinic for riders new to road cycling. In this first season the club has now grown to 95 official active members and we are all thrilled to watch it continue to grow. This was the foundation that the Reno Cycling Team was built upon. The circumstances surrounding my involvement in Nature’s Bakery will be the subject of a future blog but suffice it to say, it was clear from the start the our shared values, love of healthy living and fitness were a great match. I am so very happy the Nature's Bakery has become the Co-Title Sponsors of the Reno Cycling Team for the next two race seasons.
It is my hope that through my experiences and life lessons, my love of helping others, along with my growing knowledge as a coach and cycling instructor, I can bring relevant and useful information to those following the Nature’s Bakery blog. Along the way I have learned humility, compassion, tolerance, integrity, and a willingness to accept people at face value. I often ask myself a simple question when making decisions about my new path in life. “Who am I to judge?” I cannot possibly know what paths and choices you have made that has brought you and I together. Whatever those choices were, we get the opportunity to experience life together on our journey that I know we will both learn from. Wherever you go in life, you always have choices so make. So make them and live life NOW!