This post was originally shared June 2, 2017 on ryersonstudentaffairs.com as part of #RoadtoCACUSS 2017, as SA professionals from several institutions prepared to bike from Toronto to Ottawa to raise funds for youth mental health.
#RoadtoCACUSS 2017 is a wellness journey that will culminate in Student Affairs Professionals from across the country cycling from Toronto to Ottawa to attend the annual Canadian Association of College and University Student Services conference. The bike trip begins on June 4, 2017 but the journey will start long before that as participants train, prepare, and gear up for the adventure.
Over a year ago, I committed to something more challenging than I’ve ever done before. The idea of ‘jumping on a saddle’ and pedalling – ‘clipped in’ – for over 500 KM seemed like something I could never do. These terms meant nothing to me initially, but now are contributing to this great endeavour, which has only been possible through a combination of successful training, reflection from challenges, and support from the team around me.
It took me a while to fully commit to this idea. While I was part of the first incarnation of #RoadtoCACUSS, driving an RV from Ontario to B.C., the thought of cycling to Ottawa from Toronto seemed far too daunting. Sure, the idea of spending time with friends and colleagues from Ryerson and beyond seemed like a fun opportunity – but why cycle?
Having The Jack Project as our fundraising initiative really hit home and answered this question for me. More and more, we are seeing significant conversations related to mental health happening in the news, on our TV shows, in our schools, and in our homes. Whether it’s stories about suicide, reports on lack of resources or the state of the world, mental health is usually focused on from a negative lens. In my role, I work with teams who support both students who are thriving, and, at times, students who are in need of support or perhaps coping with a crisis. I wanted to be part of a different, positive story related to mental health; one that pushed others to challenge their own perspectives and focus on their own well-being in order to bring attention to a cause that hits everyone – including those who work within Student Affairs & Services in higher education.
Now that I have committed, the only way through was to begin with small ‘cycles’. The Ryerson team, specifically, started with weekly spin classes to help us get into a routine and come together as a team. From week 1 to now, we have evolved with the seasons to cycling in the sunshine (and rain) on the open road. Through our connection as a larger team – spanning from Ryerson, Western and Queen’s – and representing CACUSS, our goal has become clearer as our #RoadtoCACUSS approaches. From spin class to now hitting the open road, I am feeling just as challenged and connected, but more positive and trusting of this experience.
Our team has been channelling our inner positivity, engaging with others, leaning-in on relationships, reflecting to make meaning, and readying ourselves to set forth to our target of Ottawa, while trusting our inner vitality to make it in the best way we can. For me, I am going to try and model the behaviours and flex the muscles related to these characteristics, the same way I see students and peers do. And when I need to, I know I can lean-in and ask for help from any of these teammates, regardless of institution, role or when they decided to take part.
In spin, our bikes’ wheels are heavy and solid. On the open road, our bikes’ wheels have many spokes of support.
My hope is this experience will add more spokes to other wheels – whether it’s a student in need of a reminder that there are folks here who care or a staff member who is inspired to take on a new personal challenge.