June 21, 2008

Fear and Pride: The Consequence (and Benefits) of Aging (aka It Might as Well Have Square Wheels, but I'll Be Proud of It Anyway)

I first met P when, by some stroke of fate, we both ended up in an LSAT prep course in California. It was during a class break, when I slipped outside for some fresh
first hand smoke
air that P approached me and asked me if he could bum a cigarette some fresh air. We started talking, when he mentioned that no one really smokes enjoys fresh air in California, but that back where he goes to college everyone smokes enjoys fresh air. I empathised. I then asked him where he went to school, and, small world, it turned out we went to the same school (on the other side of the country).

We got to talking and realized that we had a lot in common: we studied at the same coffee shop, we knew all of the same people, we lived on the same hall freshman year, and yet, it wasn't until the summer before our senior year in college that we met on the other side of the country, sharing
a cigarette break
fresh air.

P and I have been friends now for almost 8 years, but it was only recently that P learned one of my deepest, darkest secrets: that I cannot ride a bike. However, unlike others who only poked fun and teased at my ineptitude, or questioned how it was possible to go through childhood without learning how to ride a bike, P decided to take action. His mind was set on the fact that it was finally time for me to learn.

After a couple of hours (and a couple of glasses of wine later), he convinced me to just feel out the pedals, and sit on the bike. You would think I was about to jump off a cliff. But, I did it, I sat on the bike and gripped the ground with my feet; however, when P tried to take me for a spin by holding the handlebars, I couldn't go through with it.

P is still determined to teach me how to ride a bike one day, but, sadly, I think I have reached an age where that is no longer possible. There is something about fear and aging, where the older you get, the more you become aware of the dangers that surround a given activity.

I originally learned this lesson when I was 15, and I decided it was time to learn how to ski. I watched 3 year olds whiz down the bunny slopes with no poles (and no fear), and figured "how hard could it be." When I got to the top of the hill ready to master a new skill, I learned that unlike the 3 year olds, I had fear on my side. It's true, I did eventually learn how to ski that weekend, but I was still relatively young, and regardless, I never learned to sky with the freedom of a 3 year old.

Perhaps, like skiing, I will one day be able to conquer my fear of riding a bike. However, the way I have chosen to judge my fear has changed since I was 15: while I still recognize that aging has brought on fear, I also realize that it has also brought on a sense of independence and pride (including a sense of pride in one's own quirkiness), so while I may not be on a bike without training wheels any time soon, at least I no longer harbor any shame for the fact that I can't ride a bike. That's right, "I can't ride a bike" and I can now shout it out with pride!

Photo pictured above is not my own brilliance, but was found on here on flickr and is by Vroogy, which I am required to tell you - if you want to borrow this picture like I did, see for the rules for sharing.

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