I was at breakfast with a bunch of people that I had just met and was eager to get to know them. “What’s that tattoo about?” I asked the girl sitting across from me and pointed at the ink on her wrist – the thin lines were the outline of a bicycle. Madilyn immediately lit up; I could tell that whatever she was about to tell me meant a lot to her. We talked non stop for the next hour about Pedal the Pacific – what it is, who it benefits, and why it changed her life. Since that conversation, she’s grown to be my biggest inspiration and role-model (Madilyn, if you’re reading this I love you!!!!!) and the whole reason that I’m doing this thing, too. I could write a whole blog post solely dedicated to Madilyn Warner, but I won’t do that right now.
I could not get our conversation out of my mind. Over the next few months, I kept asking her every question about Pedal the Pacific that I could think of. I probably wore her out with all of my questions, but she was always so excited to talk about her experience – even the less-than-glamorous parts of it.
I realized at some point that the reason I kept wanting to talk about it is because I actually wanted to do it. Actually, Pedal the Pacific wasn’t something that I simply wanted to do – it was something that I needed to do.
One of the questions on the application for Pedal the Pacific was about strengths and weaknesses. It made me realize how a lot of my strengths are also some of my weaknesses. Specifically, I’m always so on-the-go and excited about what’s next that I have a bad habit of starting things that I don’t finish. I can’t tell you the number of books that I read but don’t finish the last chapter because I start reading something else. In the beginning, I think my friends probably brushed off the idea of me actually finishing the Pedal the Pacific application because there are always a million different things that I talk about doing – some of them happen, some of them do not. However, I never lost the passion that I first felt for Pedal the Pacific; in fact, it just grew stronger with the more and more that I learned about the organization. I definitely became a little obsessed with it. I checked the Pedal the Pacific website almost daily, stalked their Instagram, bombarded Madilyn with questions about NCMEC and The Refuge for DMST, and told everyone that I knew about this organization. Most of this was before I even found out that I was accepted (which is a little embarrassing to admit). I’ve been described as a jack of many trades, but a master of none. I get bored with the details easily and am more of a “big picture” kind of girl. BUT, Pedal the Pacific made me realize that I do care about the details and that I can follow through with things that I’m passionate about. That same fire that I felt when I first decided to apply for Pedal the Pacific has only grown stronger. While this journey is just beginning – I haven’t even gotten on a bike yet – I know it’s one that will last my whole life. The passion that I feel for Pedal the Pacific is a different kind of intensity; it’s the kind that doesn’t go away. I love learning and oh boy, do I have a lot to do. I just started learning more about human trafficking and what we can do to stop it (daunting, intimidating, formidable!!!!) but I am so eagerly committed to this lifelong learning process.
For me, the conversation about human trafficking started with Madilyn’s tattoo. The avenue for this conversation can be a tattoo, T-shirt, or Instagram post, but it has to start somewhere. I know that Madilyn didn’t expect the stranger sitting across from her at breakfast one morning would end up becoming so invested in Pedal the Pacific the same way that she is, but I guess that’s the whole point. You might talk to a thousand different people about the impacts human trafficking, but you never know who is going to be the one that it sparks a flame with. I’m not exaggerating when I say that talk with Madilyn changed my life, and I can only hope to be that person for someone else someday. Social justice is a chain reaction of activism, education, and simple conversations, and this blog post is just one step in me being the catalyst for change!