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  • Jeremy Raeszler

Intentionally making friends

One of the greatest sources of joy in my life isn't just the bicycle; it's the act of making new, close friends because of the bicycle. These are people who infuse excitement and novelty into my life, exposing me to new experiences, fresh perspectives on the world, and novel challenges, both mentally and physically. My friends contribute to my growth by guiding me, pointing out my mistakes, and correcting me when I'm wrong. They are the ones I can lean on when I need support, and they, in turn, feel comfortable and confident enough to lean on me. In essence, these friends helped me become the person I aspire to be.

I'm extremely grateful for this because, until about a year ago, I didn't have many close friends in my life. I had a few friends, but I struggled to form genuine emotional connections. Furthermore, it didn't even occur to me that I could attempt to change this situation. It wasn't until I tried cycling and felt the joy and happiness it brought me—the sense of freedom and happiness—that I realized I had been missing something vital in my life. Cycling has been one of the most life-changing experiences, and having close friendships to share this joy and happiness with was something I longed for and had been missing for a long time.

Before my spinal cord injury in 2008, I was so focused on my career and myself that I didn't prioritize the need for friends. After my accident, I became introverted and isolated myself because I felt different, and didn't want anyone to look at me differently, feel sorry for me, or even ignore me.

It's easy to slip back into this passive mindset, to think of emotional connections as something unnecessary or something that should happen naturally over time. Believing that intentionality is inauthentic is a misconception I now know to be completely unfounded. My close friendships are among the most valuable and essential components of my happiness. Leaving it to chance feels like missing out on an incredible opportunity. Just like other important aspects of life, this can be optimized. When done right, it adds an enormous amount of joy not only to my life but also to the lives of my future close friends.

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