I got a bicycle this week. It’s beautiful, black, and just my size and I bought it off this sweet, gentle, senior man who has been fixing bikes for 15 years. As I tested out the bike, he kept giving me advice and cautioning me to make sure I was safe and all that jazz.
“I don’t want to be hearing about any deaths! You’re a young, sweet, girl, that would be a tragedy!
If anything goes awry with this bike, you bring it right back here and I’ll fix it up.”
I was grateful and excited to ride it back home.
Now here’s the thing with me and bicycles: I haven’t ridden one of those darn things properly since I was in elementary school.
i know, “it’s like riding a bike” – the idea that you never forget how to do it.
I call LIES! FALSE! and how absolutely shaming for the one who cannot remember! Yes, I can make the bicycle go forward… wobble wobble wobble
When I was in Pittsburgh, about two years ago, I bought a cheap old bike with hopes of getting me to campus quicker since I moved off campus. oh, smart idea! no. I ended up walking the damn thing more than riding it. Did I mention that Pittsburgh is ALL HILLS? And my bulimic body could not pedal… at all. So I gave it up after a few days and let the bike slowly shiver and rust away in the icy snow for months until a loving human being who apparently has thighs of horses bought it and took it away where it could be properly appreciated.
I’ve had this deep hidden anxiety about riding bicycles ever since.
Around the same period, over a visit to my homeland of Washington D.C., my boyfriend of the time and his cousins decided to take a bike tour of the city. I happily joined in with one of those bike shares and I swear, I’m lucky I got out of that city that night with no lawsuits over my head for squishing little children in strollers with that monster of a bike. I have this nightmare of myself biking along the reflection pool and screaming “EXCUSE ME EXCUSE ME SORRY SORRY!!!” as families slowly drop into the lake or onto the street of racing cars… I swear that’s what actually happened though…
ANYWAY, point being: I suck at riding a bike and am scared of it and maybe everyone else should be too.
BUT I was determined to get over it, so one day last year, I asked my boyfriend of the time to teach me to get over my anxiety. So we got a bike from the Chicago bike share and found an abandoned parking lot in the middle of bucktown/logan square and I started to bike in circles, and circles, and circles. People coming home from work all stared, and I could just hear it: “what’s that chick doing? doesn’t she know how to ride a bike?”
I was mortified. but honey, I kept going, circle, circle circle.
’cause here’s the thing: it’s never too late to start and there is no shame in declaring, “I want to do that and I don’t know how and I’ll probably look like a fool when I start trying but that’s okay, and will you help me?” because loves, that’s courage. Courage to claim who you are, where you want to be, and not letting the fear of what other people think devour you and keep you hidden behind a curtain when all you need to do is step out and start doing it. Mess up? Keep going. Try again. You are brave.
So, this past Monday I got a bike. and I rode that thing up and down north Chicago like a madwoman; during rush hour, during the night, in the cold, in the rain, sweaty, wet, in the wind.
Were people watching? yes.
Did I probably look like a fool? most likely.
Does it matter? no.
Why? Cause I did it, loves. I got on that bicycle and I faced it.
and yes, my legs and my butt have been killing me all week but it also feels so good; and I feel BRAVE.
If what it takes to be brave, to be me, and to follow after my dreams and goals is to be a fool, I’ll be a fool any day. Let’s all be fools together and rock this world in all its magnificent wobbly, uncertain glory.
thanks for being.