Motorcycles and Mennonites merged at last weekend’s Calgary Motorcycle Show. Events like this connect you with community, culture, and others who share your interests. While you know you’ll rekindle old friendships, common bonds and shared roots quickly transform strangers into new friends.
I’d expected to connect with fellow riders. However, lively exchanges with those who were descended from the same Mennonite background as I am were unexpected. “Mainstream” Mennonites, are indiscernible from the rest of the crowd. (See 10 Things to Know About Mennonites in Canada) The topic isn’t something that typically comes up in conversations, but given the nature of Crash Landing, it’s not surprising it emerged.
Much of the story of both my journey and that of my ancestors, takes place in Alberta. Many Mennonites settled here and still live in around Calgary, including numerous places I visited on the Ancestor Trail. I met two disparate men who’d descended from families who’d lived in the small tight-knit farming enclave of Namaka at the same time as Dad’s family. Dad had lived there between ages four and eleven but left his heart forever when his family moved back to Ontario. One of the men now lives in nearby Linden, where a bowl of Borscht had gone straight to my heart.
Both Mennonites and motorcyclists have strong cultures and are extraordinarily compassionate and charitable to those in need. Both have taught me how to be courageous, and stand up for what I believe in and who I am, although the road to that destination has been circuitous, indirect, and a wild adventure in itself.
There’s a tendency to get lost behind the costumes we wear, the expectations and constraints we’re raised with, and the roles we assume. As soon as we apply labels, we form an image of who we (and others) are, how we should conduct ourselves, or how we think others think we should behave. We risk camouflaging and stifling our authenticity and freedom. That’s true of motorcyclists, Mennonites, and any community. Their role is to inform and nurture but not define us.
Getting to know our roots and the cultures that have played a dominant role in our lives helps us understand ourselves, and that’s when the magic happens. It frees us to be who we are. For years I’d distanced myself from my Mennonite roots, not knowing I was choking myself and stunting my growth. Agree with some of the beliefs and traditions or not, it was only when I began acknowledging them and the experiences that were part of me, disassembling their emotional charges, and reframing them, that I begin to understand myself better.
Crash Landing narrates my internal and external motorcycle adventures, exploring my roots. Get your copy and come along for my ride!
Photo on VisualHunt.com