So riddle me this, on 16th March 2017 I received a message from my mum, who lives in the U.S. it simply said "Sorry Mike, TJ Shot himself... Just got the call."
I was at work at the time, right in the middle of my day and somewhat detached from the outside world and more focused on the tasks that lay ahead.
'Shock' doesn't quite cover the emotions from reading such a message. Now, given the big old bit of water between us, and the general 'busyness' of life, my step-brother TJ and I didn't see each other all that often. And some might even question why the sad news had such a huge effect on my personal mental health.
Well, I have had my own struggles with a bit of brain bother, and in the last 12 months it has been particularly bad. So maybe that had some impact, whatever it was; the result was 72 hours of drunken solemn sorrow and about a week of being an absolute arse to my beloved.
It wasn't until a couple of weekends thereafter when the aforementioned young lady and I decided to take a trip to Brimham Rocks to enjoy the start of spring with a short walk, a little exploration, and a proper ice cream (with a flake of course). I had a moment of sadness whilst we were in the car on the way there, the reason for which entirely escapes me. However, my lovely girlfriend, in an effort to promote a little positivity said simply: "Why don't you do something for TJ on your bike?"
Now, I took to the two-wheeled beast in September last year out of necessity because of series of unfortunate events.
So, after the old grey matter had been sparked with thoughts of "doing something on the bike" the sadness left me and the cogs began to turn. And, whilst sat upon a rock overlooking a glorious landscape, I wondered how far it was from Cudahy, WI (where TJ's Dad, my step-dad, is from) to Greensboro, NC (Where TJ lived). Turns out it's about 850 miles, but I figured the direct route that Google Maps suggested was likely to be amended to be more fitting for a bicycle, as such, I thought 'what the hell' might as well round it up to an even 1000 miles.
And so began the journey, 1000 miles of madness in honor of my wonderful step-brother, and actually more so for my mum and step-dad whom I wanted to show overwhelming support. I'm four and a half weeks into training now, and I'm making a point of sharing a positive message across my social media platforms every day. Because actually, this isn't just about the ride next summer, it's about making people more aware.
I guess most folk who aren't in the best shape of their lives, that enjoy a glass of wine and any opportunity to gorge on a baked Camembert would agree that 1000 miles under your own steam on a two-wheeled beast would be quite sufficient a challenge. Not me, I have been researching charities that raise awareness for suicide in the US, and have engaged with one in particular. I also met with the Chief Executive of the charity who runs the business centre where our office is. This was after the good lady and I were invited to their Awards Dinner where they honor the achievements of the children they work with. During his speech, I was touched by the stories shared, and after the mention of mental health, and their early intervention work. It felt right to choose to raise funds for them to expand their operation. Because, in my experience, most mental health issues start early in life, and the more opportunity there is to help; then hopefully the less chance of tragedy.
And, for those of you who actually made it to the end of this little written adventure, firstly, may I thank you for taking the time. And secondly, just a small favour to ask, if you haven't had the chance yet today, I would encourage you to smile at a stranger, or tell someone how awesome you think they are.
Because, let's be honest, the human experience is far better when it's shared with others and I promise you; the smallest kindness' give the biggest rewards! Well, I guess there's just one thing left to say folks... Rise & Shine... It's Riding Time!
You can follow the journey; through trials & tribulations right here