Donny was a different guy back then, who often spoke of his morals, and regretted many of the decisions he made. I retyped the article for him in an email and sent it away. He quite enjoyed it, because it saw regret in a different light. It referred to regret as "time-inconsistent decision making" and since then, during in our ever-diminishing conversations, we've routinely avoided the use of the word "regret". Often, it doesn't make us feel any better, but it's become kind of like a running joke (as has Briana Banks, and a few other things I won't mention).
On PostSecret last night, I saw the postcard below:
You would think, based on my anti-social, homebody tendencies that I would feel no sense of relation to this postcard, other than wondering if friends such as Kirby or Briar will ever feel like this.
But I do.
Not because I'm spending my twenties partying, but because I'm spending them racing. Most days, I flirt with the idea of throwing in the towel and selling my bikes. This is sometimes harder than you might imagine, because when I weigh up my current financial situation against maybe just missing out on the next Olympic team, money comes up trumps. But I just can't bear to do it.
I love living in Auckland, but I'd be lying if I said I was surviving on my own. Since I've moved, I've had to crack open my savings fund (originally started so I could visit Ethiopia next year) more than once just to buy food. It's pretty humanising. Not only that, but when my friend Hadleigh came to visit, he paid for EVERYTHING for me over that three-day period. I mean everything. Food, petrol, bus and ferry fares... he even put money in my bank to help me get through the next week or two.
Luckily, I just got a job, so I'll no longer have to leech off other people, but it still sucks.
You can imagine then, on the days where I just can't be bothered riding, that it's pretty tempting to sell the bikes and live off the money from that. I remember back to pre-Athens, when it seemed like the only time I left the pool was to go home and eat/sleep, to work out at the gym, or to hang out with Donny. I can see training for London being much the same: long hours in the saddle, but no food to eat once I get home, and no Donny.
I am determined to have another Olympic experience. A lot of what went wrong in Athens was due to time-inconsistent decision making, both on my part and on the part of others. I'm pretty sure my swimming coach has no remorseful feelings about the night she was carried home at 4am, so drunk that Kate put her in the recovery position before leaving to go to bed herself, and then asking me in the morning to borrow my accreditation to get into the swimming pool because she'd lost her own. Did I mention that this was the night before my race? No? Because it was.
By the time I was standing on the block for my 400m freestyle heat, I was having flashbacks of the time I left training early in January of 2003 because my coach pissed me off. Of the time I stopped mid-way through a set just months before Athens because I was having doubts about going. And most painful of all, of the time I complained to my little brother that I wasn't fit enough to do a set, and the ear-bashing I got from him as we left the pool.
You can imagine that such thoughts in the moments before the biggest race of your life doesn't make for great performance. And as such, when I left OAKA, the Olympic swimming complex a few hours later, I was desperately sad and filled with many regrets.
So when I quit the following year, the people I knew assumed it was to focus on my career, or at least on school. Not so. I competed in track, triathlon, and even occasionally in swimming, with the hope of making it in one sport to Beijing. I'm hoping I've found my niche in cycling, but I guess time will tell.
Since Athens, I guess it could be said that Donny and I have made more than a few time-inconsistent decisions. He's changed quite substantially since then and doesn't appear to dwell on such things quite the way I do, which is great. I'm left, lost in my own thoughts of how things could have gone better. It's not an easy habit to break, even you really try to accept that not riding one day probably isn't going to mean the difference in gold and silver in four years' time.
Come London, I'll be 26 and will have spent my twenties racing. I won't have made use of my degree, and I may or may not be closer to a career as an Air Force pilot. I don't see this as being any better or worse than partying. It's just different.
There's nothing to say that partying the early years of your life away are bad for your career, anyway. Some of the world's most successful people didn't even fall into their chosen lifestyle until well beyond their twenties. Everyone has to start somewhere, and in the grand scheme of things, quality of life isn't always based on how successful you are in your job.
So to the person who sent this Secret in, I say: Fear not. Tomorrow is a new day.