Small victories are very important to me. And when you achieve them, they never really feel small do they? This victory, to someone that is not me, is not just tiny but minuscule and perhaps even pathetic. But it is really for me to decide on the size of the victory. I would call it a “medium” victory, at least.
Today, I learned how to ride a bicycle. Odd as it might seem for a near-twenty-year-old to say this, it really has never meant much to me to need to learn. I also cannot drive a car (in theory, perhaps, but in practice-no). It’s all a sense of nervousness I have for things like that. Once upon a time, around eleven years ago I owned a small bicycle with training wheels, but just about the time I was getting ready to remove them and ride for real we got rid of it. I can’t remember why, but we did.
In the Spring, my roommate starting riding her bicycle to work and to class. I didn’t think anything of it, because I generally walk to class, or if the weather is bad I enjoy the luxury of taking the free student shuttle. But one day we both left early and I was walking along side her as she cycled. I talked to her about her bike and learning to ride it and of course like everyone else she said it was easy. I decided then that I would give it a go, since I gave up learning to drive for the time being (long story). So, this last week my parents bought a nice bike at a garage sale. It’s a mens’ bike, so it seems a bit awkward, but it’s sturdy!
I learned first to ride on grass, then on asphalt. My dad helped me, of course. He was very supportive (sometimes literally holding the bike up!). I never really fell off or fell over, I just sort of wobbled and stuck my foot out to catch myself. I’m not one for falling down, even when I faint I always seem to catch myself. At any rate, I’m not saying I was an instant pro; I still have a lot to learn. Honestly, I get nervous about just about nearly everything so it was nice to be less nervous about the bike, but I was still nervous. I don’t like the idea that going slow is more difficult and dangerous than going fast, it seems backwards to me and I don’t like going at high speeds on anything in the first place, so that’s not helping. But, all in all it was a success. I can ride a bicycle on fairly level ground in a straight line for about 40 feet (the path was short).
It really exhausted me though. A mix of being horribly out of shape (just because I weigh next to nothing does not mean I am fit in any way!) and it being very hot outside made it pretty near intolerable after a while and I was shaking when I walked the bike home. There was probably quite a bit of aftershock from the anxiety too. In situations like that, where I have to put fear behind me and take risks, the anxiety comes back later on and bothers me then. It’s part of my medical condition, and I’m used to it. I laid on the couch while dad was watching The Matrix and then had a very light dinner to keep my gastronomical issues at bay.
While I was riding, I was nervous but not afraid. When my dad shouted after me to forget about being afraid and just go, a sense of de-ja-vu washed over me and I shouted “Alright!” without even thinking and just went. It was- if I may be so dramatic as to put it so- a soul lifting experience to think suddenly that fear was an option that I could just drop for the time being and get on with my life. And after stopping and thinking for a bit I realized that I knew where that sense of de-ja-vu came from.
When I was twelve, I finally stopped being scared of the water and taught myself to swim. I did so by getting so tired of my dad telling me that there was nothing to be scared of that I just pulled an “fine, if you say so!” and jumped right in, even though I was terrified. And I floated of course, because that’s what we do when we relax in the water, we float. It didn’t take concentration to relax and just float along beneath the water, all it took was a little confidence and the willingness to say “fine, I’m tired of being afraid so I just won’t be”. I’m too stubborn to ever give up completely on anything that I really believe I can do. I get really scared of things, but after a while being scared just gets frustrating and you just have to make the leap. And afterward, when you succeed, it feels so amazing. Like riding on air.
It’s classic teen-fiction overcoming of obstacles stuff. I’m just overcoming my obstacles a little later along, I guess. But I’m used to being a bit late to the party on stuff like this. I just prefer to take my time.