Thursday, September 24, 2009

bicycles

When I was a kid, I would bug my parents to get me a bicycle. I really don’t know why I wanted a bike. All I know is it seemed like the right thing to want. All the kids in the neighborhood had a bike. All the kids on TV had a bike. I wanted one too.

My dad was excited. You see, I wasn’t a very athletic kid. I could stand about twenty minutes of Cops and Robbers but that’s basically it. I would retreat back to my room, gasping for air and sweating like a pig.

He bought me a really nice bike for my birthday. It had a red seat, a horn and multi-colored wheels. For weeks, I rode tirelessly. I liked the freedom I got from riding around the village. I couldn’t really go that fast because I still had my training wheels on but back then, I felt I was Evel Knievel. I would perform tricks in front of an imaginary audience. I would fearlessly evade big rocks and pieces of dog shit. I would ride downhill with my eyes closed. Look Pa! No hands!

Then one day, my dad said it was time to take the training wheels off. I was so scared. I didn’t want him to do that. I started crying and in between sobs, I told him to leave my bike alone. He sat me down and told me he would teach me how to ride a bike properly. I watched as he took his toolbox from the garage. He told me that while the training wheels made the bike safe, it also held me back. He asked if I wanted anything to hold me back. Knowing it was more of a rhetorical question, I bit my tongue. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t mind my slow bike. I just didn’t want to get hurt.

When he finished removing the training wheels, he called for me to begin our first lesson. He was at the garage with my (suddenly scary) bike and told me to sit down. Reluctantly, I did and he told me to ride slow. I could feel his hand on my shoulder so I wasn’t that scared. After a few times, I finally let him let me go. I was riding without my training wheels and without my father’s hand. I felt so free when suddenly, BLAGAG!!!

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!! Araaaaaayyyyyyyyy!!!” I cried. My father came running. I had a big wound on my right knee. I was almost certain that I broke my leg. The bike was too heavy. The weight pressed down on me like a mother-effing bitch. I was crying and howling.

“Why did you let go?” I accused. My dad scooped me off the floor. He told me to be a man and try again.

Knowing how much pain it caused me the first time, I swore I would never ride my bike again. I didn’t want to risk getting hurt again. I stormed into the house and went straight to my mom. A couple of times, my dad tried to convince me to try again but even back then, I was pretty hard-headed. I didn’t want to try again and so I never learned.

Now, whenever people ask me why I never learned how to ride a bike, I would give different reasons. Sometimes I would tell them it was because I was very sickly as a child. Sometimes I would say my parents never bought me one. I didn’t want to tell them that it was fear that prevented me from learning.

My beautiful bicycle, abandoned, started to rust. When we moved out of the house I grew up in, I saw it in the backyard looking sad and old. Poor thing, I thought to myself. It’s not its fault it went to a wimpy kid like me.

I realize now that my fear, although not completely unfounded, was very irrational. Yes, my fall really hurt but I shouldn’t have let it stop me. If I really persisted, I’m sure I would’ve gotten the hang of it eventually. Now, I’m twenty-three and I cannot ride a bicycle. Don’t you think that’s a little depressing? Although riding a bike isn’t something you would normally put in your résumé, it would’ve been nice to know that if a bicycle-related emergency should ever present itself, I would know what to do.

Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if I had learned how to ride a bike properly. It’s too late now so all I can get from this situation are lessons. What I learned is we should never let fear stand in the way of anything. Everything worth pursuing has a possibility to hurt you. Why else would you want it, right? If you fall and get hurt, just dust off the rubble and try again.

Tonight, as I finish writing this post, I wonder if I still have any bicycles left in my life. If so, I want to ride them sans training wheels and with the enthusiasm of an eight year old who just discovered the simple joys of riding a bike.

♫ It’s up to us to choose whether we win or lose and I choose to win. ♫


Mary J. Blige
No More Drama
No More Drama