I just celebrated my birthday last week and decided now was the time to learn how to ride a bike.
It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I was willing to learn. I had to get over my fear of falling, or flying over the handle bars, or looking like an idiot, or getting hit by a car. I had to be willing to be ok with sucking at something and looking like a fool in front of someone that I trusted enough to teach me. I had to be willing to let go of my ego.
I always used to laugh and say “The guy that teaches me how to ride a bike is the guy I’m going to marry.” I figured if someone is willing to put up with me when I am at my worst- struggling to learn, getting frustrated, completely afraid and looking ridiculous- then he’s a pretty rare guy and I am going to want to keep him around.
Well, it didn’t play out that way. In my own true Single Gal fashion, I found a friend to teach me. Actually, her whole family rallied around me to teach me. It was her and her husband and her daughter and her boyfriend.
I was terrified. I was so afraid I was going to lash out and snap at these people that are so nice, and offered to teach me on my birthday. We had talked about it for a year, that they would be the person to teach me. And out of the blue, a week before my birthday, they offered. It was perfect timing because I was thinking about asking them to teach me for my birthday.
It turned out to be a good thing that it was a whole family, and people that I was trying really hard to be nice to. I think if it had been my family, I may have gotten really frustrated and lashed out. Instead, I laughed things off. Which is really a much better way to deal with frustration anyway.
I picked it up a lot faster than any of us imagined that I would. They said I looked like a natural. Except for a few times where I was squealing in fear.
After all was said and done, they took their bike rack and strapped it to the back of my car and lent me the bike and helmet to take home and practice. “You didn’t think you would get away with just doing this once, did you?”
I panicked. I couldn’t think of a way out, and I knew they were right. I knew I needed to practice, because I dream of being one of those people that ride their bike to work. And I work in the city, so I am going to have to get really good and confident.
I practiced on my own for the first time today. I took the bike around my neighborhood, which is incredibly hilly. I had a rough start, but I did ok. I felt wobbly a few times, and jumped off my bike when I saw a car coming. I didn’t trust my balance or steering enough to tempt fate just yet. But luckily, my neighborhood doesn’t get a ton of traffic so I had some time to practice.
I thought about asking a friend to come with me, but I worried I would hold them back. All my friends know how to ride bikes, so I would be the one lagging behind struggling. So I didn’t ask. I wish I had, I probably would’ve practiced longer.
It is the same feeling I talked about yesterday. Ask for help. People like to help. People like to see me conquer a fear and tackle a challenge. Just like learning to ride a bike, asking for help is going to take a lot more conscious effort and practice.
I will say this. Birthdays start to suck as you get older. People aren’t as excited to celebrate. No one plans surprise birthday parties except on the big milestones that end in 0 (30, 40, 50, etc). But it felt so damn good to do something for me- to take something I am afraid of and to tackle it head on and to kick its ass.
I plan to do something like that every birthday from here on out.