Dear Morgan: I used to wake each morning with a real zest for my work. I loved the thrill of zipping through downtown at 5 mph, a horde of wooing bachelorettes on my back. I took pride in the profession, bringing smiles to the faces of tourists and locals alike.
Cracking jokes while avoiding vomit always felt meaningful, but after a decade on the job, I’ve found elements I once loved have now become debilitating. Countless birthday parties and bro-cations have resulted in a near-Pavlovian gag reflex to Top-40 hits. While I once was a devout Swiftie, now the mere intro to “22” is enough to induce internal sirens. And don’t get me started on Gaga…
While I’m grateful for the memories, I feel it may be time to stretch my pedals. With each passing year I ask myself, is there nothing more to life? As I watch my wheeled colleagues deliver emergency medicines and win international races, I can’t help but wonder, am I destined for nothing but mere entertainment? Perhaps it’s time to seek something outside of the perpetual “Party in the USA.”
I long for change. But I also worry that it may be too late to start over. Let’s face it, I’m no tricycle anymore. Any advice?
Signed, Existential Cyclist
Dear Existential: As I always say, it’s never too late for now. Have you tried discussing this with a mental health professional? Perhaps they can offer strategies for both navigating a midlife career change and minimizing the triggers of Top-40 music. Maintaining a balance between passion and rent is difficult in this city and often a sacrifice, but point your gears toward your bliss and you can’t go wrong. (And if you do, please remember that neither myself nor the Mountain Xpress maintain any responsibility for the consequences of this advice.)
Dear Morgan: I was once happy to take the fall for the occasional drunk dial or self-inflicted bangs, but quite frankly, I’m tired of being everyone’s scapegoat. Especially in this city, where it seems any change in my direction is as valid as a doctor’s note: “Sorry I can’t make it to work today, Mercury is in retrograde.”
While I used to like the attention, I now find my reputation degrading. All I receive is blame, blame, blame. Not get that job? Mercury retrograde. Break up with your partner? Mercury retrograde. Use county funds to illegally purchase gift cards and life insurance policies for yourself and your employees? Mercury retrograde.
I’m only “in retrograde” like four times a year, so why is it you never hear my name when things go right? Where’s my thanks when that email is sent correctly, Jessica? Or when the train arrives on time? When the McFlurry machine just so happens to be working, you never hear someone shout, “Must be Mercury direct!”
I don’t even know how I got this reputation in the first place. Just because the Romans named me after the messenger to the gods doesn’t mean I’m responsible for your crush not texting you back.
How do I get people to move beyond this damaging stereotype and appreciate me as more than just the planet that doesn’t get you invited to parties? How can I convince people that, although they can clutch their crystals all they want, I’m not why they’re still single?
Signed, Mercury RetroShade
Dear RetroShade: If you want to change the narrative, you may have to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Have you tried a social media approach? Maybe you should launch a carefully curated Instagram page or re-create a TikTok trend. We’re in an age where everyone is a brand — use that to your advantage!
Burn your current image to the ground and build an empire. Educate the public on #mercurydirect with daily vlogs and lifestyle posts highlighting all the positive things you do. Spin the narrative. Create a YouTube series on how to Mercury Direct Yourself into Success with accompanying crystals and makeup tutorials.
Dear Morgan: While I enjoy the barrage of booties in bright yellow tubes that grace my surface each summer, I resent finding myself the butt of the joke. You’d think, being one of the oldest rivers in the world, I’d come to be measured in more than my levels of excrement (which are the result of your actions, by the way)! But a quick Google search of “French Broad Asheville” speaks little to my history and more to my contaminants. Page after page of “water quality concerns,” as if my only value is in my ability to float tourists and beer coolers!
A certain “humor” column appearing in this very publication equated me to a hideous Halloween costume, claiming that seeing people exit my shores left the writer feeling “horrified and disgusted.” Those words still haunt me. Does this writer know nothing of my many contributions to agriculture, or that I am one of the few homes to the very rare eastern spiny softshell turtle? I imagine not.
I think if folks want to use me recreationally, they should respect me for more than just my water quality. How can I get people to both engage with me recreationally and academically?
Signed, Fecal Fatigued
Dear Fatigued: My advice? Become more toxic — figuratively, not literally. Get messy in the comments. Let them know the rumors are true, that you are a dirty little creek (well… river). If your contaminants are the only thing of concern, I say pull a Bonnie Raitt and give them something to talk about. Start releasing daily rants and go as viral as your infectious waters, then use your platform to tell the world of your turtles. As they say, all press is good press.
Dear Morgan: I’ve been working on myself for a while now, trying to grow past the limitations of my upbringing and do the deep, inner work of healing and self-discovery. While I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made, it never seems good enough to those around me. My growth is slow and steady, but speed seems to be all anyone cares about.
I face a flurry of insults each day, people yelling to ask when I’ll be finished and ‘Why is there only one lane?’ Hurtful hand gestures thrown recklessly by drivers as they lay on their horns, as if that will make me go any faster! Don’t they know I’m growing as fast as I can?
I get it, housing in Hendersonville is more affordable, and Asheville pays higher wages, but I’m not forcing you to commute. And yes, I understand that your flight leaves in an hour, but surely I can’t be blamed for your poor time management! I love helping people get to where they’re going, but I’m done putting the needs of others ahead of my own. How can I get others to respect my boundaries and allow me to grow at my own pace?
Signed, No Need for Speed
Dear No Need: Never apologize for being who you are, and never allow others to impede your progress, even if your progress impedes others. Continue closing lanes and rerouting traffic until you’re ready to open up again. While boundary setting can be challenging, it is a crucial step in the healing process.
If you want people to respect these boundaries, you must not only enforce them, but make them clear. Throw up a few more cones in the middle of the day, perhaps. Show people that you’re serious about protecting your growth and take all the time that you need. Those that matter won’t mind, and those that mind can take Hendersonville Road.