When was the last time you rode a bike? If you’re like me, it’s been many years. Not because I haven’t been interested, but because I didn’t have one, first of all and whenever I thought about it something else was always more important. That changed last week, when my boyfriend Jeff got me one for our 3rd anniversary. It was both exciting and a little nerve wracking when he told me it has 16 gears. My bike riding experience is limited to a beach cruiser on nice flat sidewalks that ran along the ocean. It dawned on me that I was now facing hills, gears and a lot of other people sharing the walk way. Yikes!
My first lesson was in the street in front of the house. I shakily climbed on and rode in a couple circles. After watching me Jeff recommended he go get my helmet, “just in case.” I felt like a 5 year old as he coached me on how to shift gears. It was hilarious watching a grown 50 something woman learn to ride all over again and it was fun and humbling to get to laugh at myself. After mastering the basics we hit the trail.
The trail runs along Melton Hill Lake. It has gentle rolling curves followed by long flat stretches of smooth pavement, lined with towering sycamore. Toward the end of the path is a steep winding hill that leads to smaller rolling hills. After VERY slow peddling in 2nd gear I finally made it to the top of the hill. The good news is that I didn’t have to do the literal walk of shame by having to stop and walk my bike. The downhill ride back was exhilarating! There is nothing like the feeling of warm wind in your face as you glide down a mountain at high speed. That carefree feeling is something we adults don’t get enough of!
As I was thinking back on my bike riding experience that day, it dawned on me how much riding a bike parallels how we live our lives. At birth we have an uphill ride, totally dependent on others to nourish us and keep us alive. Childhood is typically a series of rolling hills where we learn to peddle, gain agility and strength and experience the sheer joy of really living as we race downhill and skid around turns with reckless abandon.. Childhood is where we first meet our team mates. It is where our gears never stop turning. It is where we feel like we will live forever. Then we become teenagers! The hills turn into mountains the size of Mt. Everest. Our legs burn as we try to navigate the emotional ups and downs of life. There seems to be mountain after mountain. The downhill ride acts as momentum to get us back up to the top. Some days we just want to pull the covers over our head and sleep. Bike riding is stupid anyway, right? This is a time when many of us stop riding altogether. Life becomes a series of twists and turns, some more sharp than others. We may teeter and fall as the reality of adulting sets in. We forget the wind… at least for awhile.
How would it feel if our lives were one flat, smooth, straight road? What would the world look like if we didn’t experience the drama of careening out of control sometimes? Would the silence be deafening if it weren’t for the sound of our wheels trudging along the gravel road? Is it possible to really feel or understand life without the pain of falling down a time or two? We need the rolling hills and sharp curves, the rocky roads and smooth black pavement. It is where true growth happens. It may hurt sometimes but when we conquer the steep uphill rides we will once again get to feel the joy of the wind.