my goal with this blog has always been to not only talk about the good stuff in life, but real life, and as we all know–real life isn’t always perfect and happy and what most people post in Instagram. This post is a little bit more serious than usual, because, this week marks 6 years since The Crash—and I’m allowed to be a bit more serious when needed.

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the Pagoda is an oddly peaceful place to reflect during the Indy 500

It’s always a little bit of envy that I feel as I sit watching the IndyCar’s fly around IMS, a little bit of jealously of my friends that are in those cockpits. The reality that in that setting, I’m a spectator standing motionless as they push the boundaries of mechanical grip.

I’ve written about it before (most in depth here), the struggle I have had with missing racing bikes at a competitive level and finding something that is as remotely good of an adrenaline rush to satisfy that craving.

Sprinkle in a bit of survivor’s syndrome: the mixed feelings of invincibility and a bit of guilt that I’m still here standing when Jim isn’t, when Denver isn’t—and it can be the perfect storm.

The good–survivor’s syndrome is a huge reason why Nine13 has found its footing. A combination of brute force, desperation, and a feeling that no matter what, I could make it happen stems directly from a bit of that invincible attitude that still lurks in my mind. I don’t think I would have had the courage or stubbornness to weather the last four years if it wasn’t for The Crash. I know that if I was still married, I would have wound down Nine13 three years ago. I realize that if I was still with co-founders, Nine13 would have been dread in the water. I know that my drive has stemmed from a combo of “damn the man!” and “I’ll show you.”

The bad–at the same time, I can’t put a bright light on those feelings of invincibility. From things like driving way too fast (there’s a reason I sold my motorcycle), sidestepping safety logistics, shrugging my shoulders and saying “eh, what’s the worst that could happen?”, partying too hard, some questionable choices in dating and relationships—-there’s been a lot of things I wish I could have do-over’s on. Fortunately, I’m still here and standing, and I do have an appreciation for knowing that I’ll make it out of my 20’s in one piece.

I think it took the six years of space between the Crash and now to fully understand the role I have within this community and the responsibility that comes with it.

My biggest goal this summer as I inch towards that September birthday is to slow it all down a bit. I’ve been moving a mile a minute for months now and I know I need to decompress a little bit. Now that the weather has finally turned, I’m excited to get back out on the bike and have some fun. Excited to do some hiking and exploring of the parks around Indy. I know I’m fortunate to be here today, and it’s important to lay the groundwork to have as productive a decade in my 30’s as I have had in my 20’s…just hopefully with a lot more highs than lows.

What have your experiences been directly or indirectly with survivor’s syndrome or guilt? I would love to hear it–shoot me an email at thanleyIV@gmail.com if you want to share.

 

Cheers,

-th

 

It’s been a month filled with media attention, logistical planning for expansion, and staying above the fray in terms of my own sanity. In a lot of ways, I don’t even know where to begin in terms of capturing the awesomeness of these last few weeks. It’s been humbling, it’s been overwhelming, and it’s kept me on my toes.

In the Chamber piece, I’m quoted, “No matter what age you are, realize you need genuine mentors in your life, and you have to be genuine too. Nothing ever happens quick enough, and you have to accept that.”

And, as I look back at the journey of the last tumblr_inline_o7dvpyws471tu2ppz_1280four years, I have such an appreciation for that thought process. I can think of a million stories with Nine13, with growing my role serving this great city, of my personal life with friendships and relationships. I had wanted so much of this to happen overnight, but the reality is that this slow process has made me a better man, better equipped to handle the organization and my own internal expectations. Between mentors, work, and being a (somewhat) functional 29 year old bachelor—I think it’s sorted out for the best.

I think relationships have been a prominent thing on my mind recently, navigating my own, watching some friends go through breakups and divorces, watching people lose loved ones and coping—it could be really easy to have the mentality that no matter how good something is, it’s going to end.

I don’t know–maybe it’s because life has thrown me so much in such little time, but I’m willing to give just about anything a shot without any idea if it will work or if it will blow up. I’ve stayed away from the jaded and self-sabotaging mindset that things have some sort of guaranteed destiny of implosion.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about that with Nine13….there were a thousand days that it would have made more sense to go get a job as a janitor than it would have to continue trying to get a vision of bikes and kids from idea transformed into reality.

And in looking back, I realize that some of my absolutely biggest mistakes and errors in life are some of my proudest days. That those moments of self doubt made me more resilient. And ultimately, it got me to sitting here and able to reflect and appreciate every single one of the frustrating and heartbreaking moments that have been part of this experience.

It took hundreds of “no’s” before somebody said “yes” to Nine13. It took four years to get to this moment in time, and no matter what happens…I know that what we’ve built just isn’t going to end.

Cheers,-th

 

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my favorite car of all time

The Jeep is topless, doorless, and ready to party.

And that’s how I know it’s May.

From spending time out at the Speedway to Sunday bloody mary’s in Broadripple–it’s my favorite time of year in my favorite city.

Maybe the sun is making everything look brighter. Maybe the beer is making everything look better. But this May is looking delightful, shining bigger and better than I remember from years of past.

One of my mentors commented last week that, “you seem to be in a good spot, your writing is the happiest I’ve seen in a long time.”

There’s a lot of reasons for that, life is good…professionally, personally, fate and time and paths seem to be aligning to make 2016 a polarizing year of ups and downs. but the ups seem to be plenty right now, and it’s a welcome change from the first couple months of this year.

I was sitting at Flatwater today, cocktail in hand, looking at what I’m thankful for that’s come into my life over the last year. The community, the friendships, the relationships, the professional development, the personal development….worlds colliding in ways that make me appreciate the chaos of life more so than ever before.

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my favorite view

Honestly , I just feel content. Maybe it’s that for the first time in years, chaos doesn’t seem to be reigning supreme in my world. It’s an odd shift to be making decisions based on me and only me…to not really be so integral to a bigger picture that I’ve been able to look around and appreciate the slower pace of the finer things.

Now, I’m still figuring out how to navigate all of this. It’s somewhat new territory. Honestly, being in a position of relaxation and security is a place I’m not sure I’ve ever been in. When I was racing, May was the kickoff to the entire cycling season. Since my cycling career ended, I’ve always gone into May with mixed emotions of life reflection past/present/future—-and yet, this year, the energy in the air just seems incredibly different.

I think I know who to thank for that, and I know that person is reading this—so thank you, for being a refreshing reminder of laughter and smiles here in Indy. You’ve picked me up more than you realize and I’m forever appreciative of that and the relationship we have.

Now, I’m off to the Speedway to enjoy Pole Day. Because my work is done and I’m ready for the week.

 

Cheers,

-th

Indy,

You’re beautiful, smart, witty, keep me in check, and make me feel all tingly inside.

I’m not sure what I did to deserve you. I’ve known you for what seems like forever, but it’s really been the last few years that saw me fall head over heels for you. Maybe it’s because you’ve grown up a bit, and I’ve grown up a bit, and we’ve grown together. We’ve got our stories from Mass Ave and Broad Ripple involving late nights and bad decisions. We’ve got those lovely mornings spent drinking coffee or eating breakfast at 49th and Penn. I cherish those times I spent just standing around staring at your heart, Lady Victory, standing atop the entire city on Monument Circle.

You’ve never turned your back on me and you’ve always made sure I knew that with you, I could do absolutely anything. You’ve challenged me and pushed me and made me work harder than I ever knew possible. You whispered into my ear to chase my dream of building an organization from the ground and said that if I rolled up my sleeves, you would help me find footing and success.

Indy, when I travel to other cities, I don’t look at them with a twinge of desire, instead—I compare them all to you and realize that despite your flaws, I couldn’t be with anyone else. You’re my true love.

It’s not just skyscrapers, sports, and your night life that keeps me so enamored with you, it’s the feeling that because of you, I can do absolutely anything. You’ve given me confidence, helped me find my voice, and forced me to grow up beyond my 29 years. Eleven years ago, when I moved into this house, I never expected it to become the home that it is.

Sure, we’ve had our differences. I haven’t always agreed with how you take care of your roads, how you treat your school districts, or how you love your automobiles; but what relationship doesn’t have friction and disagreements?

You keep providing me opportunity to meet your friends, all the other incredible hard-working folks that also love and adore you. I’ve hit it off with some of them, I’ve dated a few of them, and I call a lot of them friends of my own—and a common thread with all of those people is you.

I know you can’t be in a monogamous relationship because you’re loved by so many. But, unless my life radically changes, this relationship between you and I, it’s sort of a forever thing. I’m not going anywhere, you’re not going anywhere, and we just keep getting better with age.

 

Love,

-th

About a month ago, at breakfast with one of my mentors, he said, “it doesn’t really matter where you’ve been, it’s more about where you’re going.”

What he didn’t know it’s also similar to a line of lyrics from one of my favorite hometown bands, Watershed, on one of their old albums.

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thumbs up on the last few weeks

But what he did know, was that in that moment in time as I hit the insane pace that April and May has been, it’s exactly what I needed to hear.

Trying to recap the last few weeks will take multiple posts, but it’s all been good stuff. Momentum breeds more momentum, and if there’s one thing I can confidently say I have right now…it’s good momentum.

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a very happy me

There’s been overwhelmingly great feedback from the IndyStar article that came out earlier this week. The amount of people that have reached out to me to comment on it has been awesome and it’s been fun to see a whole slew of new people reach out to Nine13 to learn more about what we do, how we do it, and what our path forward looks like.

And that’s the thing, for the first time since I launched Nine13, I’m not looking over my shoulder. I don’t have this impending fear of what is sneaking up behind me. Whatever is in the past, I’m comfortable with letting it just be the past.

Instead, looking forward has me excited. I’m surrounded by a great team, great friends, a great community—and I just feel content. At peace with where 2016 has taken me and the highs and lows along the way. Now, I’ve got a lot of big goals for the next 7 months still, but I’m excited to tackle them and find the best way to make them happen.

Monday night I was getting my haircut, and the guy asked about the big scar on the back of my head and how I got it. I brushed off the question with a pretty short “car accident” response, but it got my mind going on how my life has played out in my twenties and the scars I wear both externally and internally—often with things totally outside my control.

I can’t deny the fact that my life has played out in the public eye, often much more than I’d prefer. It only took reading the first paragraph or two of that article to be reminded of that….it’s weird to have the darkest hours and days of your life play out for the world to see.

However, as I think of the past and I look forward, I can’t think of anything besides….”it’s not about where you’ve been, but about where you’re going.”

Cheers,

-th

So, it goes without saying, if you followed Denver’s blog, you knew she loved lists. I’m channeling my inner-Denver and writing this. In full disclosure: I’m writing this after midnight after a long day, but I’ll own these words.

I had an incredible evening with amazing people. That being the description on tonight should suffice, but, I’ll add that I’m fortunate to surround myself with some of the best talent in the Midwest and call them friends.

And tonight, over dinner and drinks, they gave me shit about not being 30. It was all in good fun, and well deserved (they’re all old), but, it got me thinking about all the things I’ve learned in my 20’s that will define me for a lifetime.

  1. Go big or go home–I never got anywhere in my 20’s by sitting back and expecting things to come to me. It’s been a battle, a bloodbath, a matter of survival, and I am thankful every day to know that when you don’t leave anything on the table, you don’t have any regrets.
  2. Chase your dream–I had a lot of people tell me to give up on Nine13 and take an office job. That Nine13 would never work. That I would fail. I’m glad I chased my vision and dream.
  3. Fuck the naysayers– The amount of people that told me I would fail…..the fuel they added to my drive was incredible, and they were wrong.
  4. Graduate relationships–What I’ve learned more than anything else is that you graduate relationships. There’s a lot of friendships and relationships I’ve said goodbye to in my 20’s…it was the best thing for my emotional health.
  5. When you kiss someone, mean it–I was a bachelor when I started my 20’s, I’m a bachelor as I venture towards the end of my 20’s. A lot happened in the middle. But, I’ve learned that when I kiss somebody, it better mean the entire universe at that moment in time. Not just for personal gain, but for worldly balance.
  6. Life is too short to not pick up the tab–One thing that sticks with me is Jim’s desire to pick up the bar tab the day he was killed. he didn’t have to do it, but he argued with me till he won. It’s an odd last memory, but it reminds me to not stress over the little stuff.
  7. I want to like blondes, but, it seems to be brunettes are more my style–I’m often told this is just fact.
  8. Hire the people you trust as friends–this goes against every startup guide, but, I want to work with people that I am friends with first, teammates second.
  9. Family means a lot of things– I’m an only child, but I’ve got a big-ass family. Guys that are brothers. Women that I would defend as sisters. Parental units. Mentors. We’re all in this together.
  10. Don’t censor yourself to censor yourself–I swear, I’m not always politically correct, but I’m authentic and what you see is what you get.
  11. Don’t sit on your feelings– If I’m in love, I’m going to say I’m in love. If I dig you, I’m going to say I dig you. Life is too short, and too sudden, to play games….call it as it is.
  12. Screw them if they can’t take a joke– this goes with 10, if you can’t laugh at yourself or me, you’re not worth my time.
  13. Broken bones aren’t fixed with booze and pain meds– I learned this on the 4th of July last year.
  14. Love big, lose hard, never stop– Love is a drug, sometimes it hits when you don’t want it and it’s addictive. Just go with it.
  15. Bloody Mary’s make the world go round–fact.
  16. Never hesitate to argue with a referee–They’re almost always wrong. And I’m always right.
  17. Dogs make great kids for a bachelor– Bailey, Zee, and Moose are my fur-children and I’m totally okay with that…and if you don’t like dogs then you’re dead to me.
  18. if you’re comfortable, you’re not pushing the limits–when I was married, I was content and cozy. I didn’t push myself. I didn’t rock the boat. I was with someone who encouraged me to fit the mold….the mold is meant to be broken.
  19. Make every hug count–If there was one thing I could have in abundance, it would be hugs from Jim and Denver. If I hug you, I’m going to squeeze you tight and ponder never letting you go…because it means the world to me.
  20. I don’t need words, I can see it in your eyes– I don’t care what you say (or don’t say), your look gives it away.
  21. Write often– when we die, there’s nothing left besides the written word and memory (and social media).
  22. Be ridiculous- whatever the expectation is…blow it up and make it your own.
  23. Own your community– I am Indianapolis, so are you. Let’s make it better.
  24. Stay away from redheads, and women who are more than a year younger than you–if you know…you know.
  25. Hire a cleaning woman, a lawn service, whatever– I do plenty of chores, but some things are easier to hire out so I can enjoy my time as my own.
  26. Throw out the 40 hour work week mentality- If you love what you do, you’re working a hell of a lot more and you’re totally okay with it.
  27. Accept that a dog sleeps in bed– figure out the logistics of this however you want with whoever you want.
  28. Practice your passion– don’t just punch a clock.
  29. We’ve all got baggage and we’re all sorting it–every. single. one. of us.

Build it. Break it. Love it. Protect it. It’s life.

 

Cheers,

-th

 

A big ball of stress. That’s the best way to describe me this week.

Tonight we find out how Nine13 fared in the Lids Foundation Tip the Hat contest at their awards gala. It’s been a pins and needles week as we wait to find out if we won $125,000, $75,000, $50,000, or $25,000. It’s something that I have zero control over, the voting ended weeks ago, and I know my entire team put forth the best possible effort to fight for the top.

We’re honored to be a finalist, and any amount of money goes a long way to impacting Kids Riding Bikes programs in Central Indiana and Portland, Oregon……but after four years of studying cash flows and impacts created per dollar, I know what is truly possible with those top level awards and I know the true impact that we can create for youth with it.

I’m so incredibly proud of my staff, our community, and the kids we are fortunate to serve. In a lot of ways, I feel like Cinderella going to the Ball, still coming to terms with the fact that we are at the adults table when it comes to things like this and we’ve been kicking some serious ass across the industry.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the first 100 days of 2016 and what they meant to me, how they’ve changed me, and what I’ve learned from them. It’s sort of surreal to think about all that happened in the first chunk of this year. There were glimmers of better days in the first 100, but damn, they came in the midst of some really dark hours.

It seems like the second 100 days of this year, even though we’re just getting into them, that the tide is changing. There is an energy in the air that I feel. There is the warmth of love around me. We’ve had some pretty awesome milestones just in the last couple weeks—grants from major players in town, new programs rolling out, positive momentum that helps me separate from the past and look positively towards the future.

Whatever happens tonight, it’ll be great.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be pacing for the next 7 hours.

 

Cheers,

-th

It’s been a whirlwind of a week. Between the Tip The Hat Grant voting drive having Nine13 up for the chance to win a $125,000 grant, Brackets for Good, and prepping for our annual Wheels & Wings…it’s been a blur.

Throw on the regular work and social obligation stuff and it’s been chaos.

With that being said, I cracked Wednesday night. And one of my favorite songs of all time, Sad Drive, by Watershed and Colin Gawel, seemed to fit the mood well.

It’s a sad, sad drive on a sad, dark and lonely night
It’s a sad, sad drive, when only one of us
Still has hope in his eyes
Wait, I’d drive to feel your touch

But hope, that’s just another drug
Trying to kill the pain like aspirin make you feel better

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Denver even networked with Rowdie and won him over

I went to a pretty awesome event down at the local brewery. It was an event that brought my SKL moderator and my friend and mentor who runs the Indy Chamber together for discussion about leadership and Indianapolis. It was an incredible event with a great group, but there was a pit in my stomach all night that just wouldn’t go away.

It was the reality that it was an event Denver would have been at, should have been at, would have loved being at. I think it’s the first time I’ve been at an event in the last seven weeks that had every bit of her personality woven into it. In the midst of being surrounded by some of the folks I’m closest with, I felt like I was a million miles away. If you never had the chance to experience Denver work a room and charm the hell out of everyone in it, you missed out, and Wednesday night I just kept pondering how much everyone in that room was missing out by her not being here.

Now distance, it’s a funny thing
‘Cause romance is just a touch away
You can touch me with your hands or with your letters
As soon as you went away, I remembered the things I forgot to say
As soon as you went away, I remembered

Back on Sunday, I had stumbled across a note Denver wrote me last year before Wheels & Wings 2015 congratulating me on my hard work and wishing me a successful event. I have a million notes from her, every single one I cherish. It highlighted the fact that this event is incredibly bittersweet to be promoting. She helped me so much with the first two years of this and it feels pretty crushing to not have her around for this one. As she did with so many things, she pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to tackle this event. Honestly, I thought several times right after her death about cancelling it because I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to be forced to confront the new normal…but I’m glad we decided to carry on and make it happen.

Trying to get to your place by the sunrise
Before the buzz dies in my eyes
We snuck out down to the beach
Where I learned the lessons that you teach
You never taught me the final lesson of how to lose you
‘Til now

I think this line of lyrics is what hits me the most out of the song, “You never taught me the final lesson of how to lose you…’til now”. Denver prepped me for a ton of things in life and was a great partner in crime for so much…but damnit, she never prepped me to not have her around. So many conversations that took place in the car, over dinner, on the beach…but nothing about the aftermath. I’ve been trying to figure out the “’til now” part, and I just think it means continuing to move forward and do my best.

It’s a sad, sad drive on a sad, dark and lonely night
I remember so clearly when you rode with me on the ride
And all the struggles and the laughs
I just refuse to put them all in the past
It’s a sad, sad drive when only one of us
Still has hope in his eyes

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Zoobilation 2014 might have ended at the Zoo, but it started at Chatham with us celebrating Gay Pride Weekend on Mass Ave

So, Wednesday night after the brewery, I did what I had done a thousand times over the last 3 years. I drove over to Den’s place (no parking on Mass Ave was open), and parked to walk to Chatham Tap. That bar is where I spent countless evenings with her talking about work, life, politics, and whatever else. It’s where we brainstormed strategy to exceed in events like Tip the Hat and Brackets for Good. It’s where we both wrote our SKL applications and had one another edit them. It’s the spot that I wrote my first guest blogs for Bloomerang and Twenty-Something Indy. It’s the spot where we ran into a million other people and had casual conversation with everyone who walked in who knew one of us (which was just about everyone it seemed). It’s the place where we both knew which three tables had access to the power outlets for our laptops and would rush towards them when we walked in. Hell, it was the spot of one of our very first dates back in 2013. It’s where I celebrated my divorce being finalized. It’s where she took me to drink when I decided to make Nine13 happen without co-founders. It was the place we went to celebrate the good and drown the bad.

Wednesday night, I ordered food and beer and I got caught up on email. I sat at the bar instead of one of those tables. I tried to bury the gut wrenching heartbreak that this is the new normal. And then I left, and sobbed the entire way back to my car. It was the longest walk down the Cultural Trail that I’ve ever experienced.

I miss my best friend. More than even I realize at times. And I can’t stay at this full throttle work pace forever to avoid the fact she’s not coming back. Because all of this work stuff…it’s stuff she would love and would be part of. It was a thought process I couldn’t avoid as I drove home on that sad, dark, and lonely night on I-65 from downtown.

I never agreed to like this new normal. And this week, I really don’t consent to it.

Hope to see some of you at Wheels & Wings this weekend.

-th