My thighs are burning, sweat is dripping in my eyes, and Wan is screaming to me from her scooter “Let’s go! You got it girl!!”
I scream back frantically, “I’m trying Wan!! I’m trying!!!”
A little. Bit.
I reach the top of the extremely unimpressive “hill” on the street just outside the Hive and Wan says we’re going to the end of the street to try to turn around. Okay new goal. It’s much flatter here so at least I’m not battling the hills and my confusion over how to work the gears. Now it’s just my balance while I try to turn…
It’s a tight right turn. I slow down and eek my way in a semi-circle slowly and…I don’t fall! I did it!
Wan congratulates me with the same lost-in-the-moment frantic excitement I feel every time I accomplish something new on the bicycle. My clothes are soaked through with sweat and I absolutely reek. My helmet is tipped to the side a bit and my hair is mussed and stuck to my forehead. I fucking did it.
More than the physical challenge of balancing or turning or getting uphill, learning to ride a bike at this age and stage in my life is a massive emotional undertaking.
I’m learning to do something everyone else has always been able to do and I haven’t. It’s a thing that hasn’t overtly held me back my whole life but has been in the background and sort of cropped up here and there limiting certain moments and experiences. (Like that time we didn’t ride bikes in Ayutthaya for example.)
I practice out on the roads amongst the traffic and pedestrians (because I have no choice – there’s nowhere else to practice) and it’s this constant battle of trying to look confident and okay on the bicycle while also trying not to fall or hit anyone…Trying to both learn and not be embarrassed that I’m just now learning is the hardest part.
Still, when I get back from practicing out on the roads, any progress I’ve made (I turned without falling or stopping to get off; I changed gears successfully and got up a hill; etc.) I feel completely and totally elated for the rest of the night. The same way it can be emotionally exhausting, it can also be joyous and liberating.
Part of me feels like I’m never going to be great at riding a bicycle and even if I do get to the stage where I can drive a scooter, I still won’t be able to get to a lot of places on the island that require traversing up and down near-90-degree hills.
But then another part of me entertains the idea of becoming super into it and zipping around the island on a motorbike like a pro someday…
I guess we’ll see but either way I’m so glad I even started this journey. Learning something new — even if you never get great at it — is stimulating. I feel like I’m growing, like I’m really “getting somewhere” — pun intended 😉