Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2023/ Bragging without Condescension

Bragging without Condescension

One of my few remaining pasttimes is riding my bicycle, and in recent years I have been taking longer and longer trips. The destinations are getting ridiculous (Orangeville! Burlington! Fake London!), and there is a sense in which this makes me feel like a jerk.

People know that one of my few remaining pasttimes is riding my bicycle. Because I am utterly boring in every other way sometimes those people ask me where I have cycled recently. Then I make a big mistake: I tell them, and then they exclaim that I have travelled so far, and that they could never possibly travel that far. Sometimes they lament that they do not bike very much, or that they do not bike very far.

I don't like this at all. Yes, I am boastful about taking every Sunday to ride my bicycle. When I cycle to a new milestone I feel a sense of accomplishment, and because I am a braggart I brag about these things. But that makes other people feel bad, which is awful.

As I have written before, the concepts of "near" and "far" stretch as one takes longer trips. But that should not diminish the accomplishment of shorter trips. As I documented in the linked entry, I used to find the trip between Bridgeport and UW arduous. I distinctly remember huffing and puffing up that long slow incline on Bridge Street thinking I was not going to make it, and then finally reaching the summit only to turn onto the scary highway underpass. Those trips were not easy. They were accomplishments.

Without making those early trips I might not have gained the confidence to take those first trips to St Jacob's and Bamburg. I remember boasting about a 30km trip I took one weekend out to Bamburg and back, and the response felt condescending: "Just wait until we take you on some 50km trips." At the time, 30km felt far. It felt like an accomplishment, because it was an accomplishment.

When somebody who has not bicycled much takes their first few trips, that is a real accomplishment. Once, a friend starting cycling to work (taking a route that in retrospect I think was terrifying). I told her I was proud of her, and she thought I was being condescending towards her. But I wasn't! At least, that was not my intent. When people stretch beyond their comfort zones and do something they did not think they were capable of, that is something to celebrate.

Similarly, if people take modest bike rides and enjoy themselves, then that is fine. Nobody has to be stupid and crazy like me for their rides to be worthwhile. Even people who feel they are "cheating" by using pedal-assist bikes to get around are accomplishing something worthwhile, especially if they were sedentary before.

I am using biking in my examples here, but this extends to any hobby or pasttime that takes perseverance to develop. One's accomplishments ought not to be diminished because other people have larger accomplishments, but we are status monkeys and compare ourselves to others, so we feel inadequate if we are not the best in the world.

But I do not know how to express these things, so I come off as condescending. I wish I knew how to talk about my bike rides without making other people feel bad, but I don't.

At the very least I have to quit the unsolicited bragging. Probably I should avoid talking about my bike rides even when I am asked about the topic directly.

Honestly, I do not even know whether I enjoy bicycling, and this year has been pretty horrible in terms of my bikes being unreliable, but biking is still something I am committed to doing for now. Now that I am in the workforce again hanging onto cycling is something I am wrestling with a lot, and there is no question I talk about it far more than I should. I conceal a lot of myself when talking with others, and I guess this is one something else I should conceal.