For those of you familiar with Lululemon Athletica (the activewear brand), who’ve ever stopped to read the stuff on their bags, you might recognize this phrase. I think in a way, this is not a bad idea, as it’s an invitation to test our limits and step out of our comfort zone, whatever that means for you at the time. In some cases, the exercise takes more than a day. Such as with me and riding bikes.
I got a bike for Christmas when I was four or five. Tried to learn with training wheels, which didn’t last very long, and before soon the bike (and learning how to ride it) was long forgotten. The only bike riding I did growing up was riding on a double bike with my dad when we would go to “El Mirador Sur” on Saturday afternoons. Then in my preteen years, rollerblading was the rage. I would go rollerblading with my friends at a skating rink and with my sister Angie on weekday afternoons, and well, I thought I was the coolest person in the world. I embraced it and learned how to rollerblade, and well, didn’t really care about the whole “not knowing how to bike” thing.
Fast forward to earlier this year when we made the decision to move to China. China has always been very bike-friendly and well, Cameron thought teaching me how to bike would be an interesting summer project that could be easily accomplished in his mother’s small town. So he commissioned Kathy with finding a bike and sure enough, next thing we knew there were two yard-sale bikes waiting for us in Dryden until we got there for the summer.
Needless to say, our summers are usually quite busy doing things in the US that need to get done (usually involving some form of government/bank paperwork) and seeing people we normally only see in the summers. So the bike riding kept being pushed, and finally, there were only 4 days left, so we had to go on crash course mode to at least teach me to get the pedals going.
First day was kind of awful, because being the perfectionist I am, I kind of hoped I would turn out to be a natural and make Cam super impressed/proud. And of course, that didn’t happen. But he asked me to please give it a little more time and keep trying. I did, mostly because I love him and wanted to be able to bike with him once we got to China, but also because I kind of refuse to fail at anything (one would think getting Fs in Civil Law V and my Intellectual Property Seminar would whip that out of me, but no). So I kept trying.
And guess what? By day 4, I was able to ride. Only on a straight line, and I couldn’t turn, but it was a start.
Shanghai has the advantage that it’s super flat, so you can effortlessly bike for as many miles as you want without running into any major hills. In general, city bikes suffice here. We were the last ones of the “new hires” bunch to get bikes, a) because it was too hot to ride anyway, and I didn’t want to purchase the bikes and have the weather discourage us from riding for good) and b) we wanted to make sure we could go into the expense and not get in trouble, as we are two and live in one salary. In the end, we got bikes in late August once Cam got paid. I was sure I was just going to waltz-bike my way home from the shop.
That, of course, didn’t happen.
Our trip back home from the bike shop resulted in me freaking out while trying to get through the crosswalk and into the bike lane. So I got off the bike and walked it all the way home (it’s a 20 minute walk) while Cam rode slowly behind me (along with all the other bikes and electric scooters on the bike lane).
I was so mortified and embarrassed, thinking I had failed and disappointed Cameron. So when we came home, he hugged me, dried my tears, and explained that it was perfectly normal to be nervous to ride a bike for the first time in the middle of traffic, with a gazillion other bikes and scooters around, and that I needed to give myself a freaking break because I hadn’t ridden in a month and a half and before that I had only ridden for four days. So no, he was not embarrassed, he was not disappointed, and he still loved me.
So we made a deal where before stepping outside again, I would take about a half hour of my day and ride inside our apartment complex. During the day, car traffic is minimal so it would help me get familiar with the bike, practice my turns and start dodging traffic slowly and without much risk of being severely injured. So that was all I did bike-wise for about 3 weeks. At first I would only do loops around, then I slowly stepped out and went to the main streets in the complex. Soon I was riding alongside cars and scooters, and not running over babies. It was great!
Next thing I knew, I was riding to Cam’s school with him on weekends. And then I added pedaling through crosswalks. And then riding through obstacles. And then going to the store on my own and carrying groceries on my basket. And then riding at night. And then joining our friends in biking to a restaurant, and biking to other friends’ houses. And then just biking with Cam, picking a street and seeing how far can we go.
Basically after you decide to keep going once you’ve managed to do that thing that scares you, it’s only a matter of transforming the fear into fuel, and figuring out how far can you go.
I couldn’t end this post without a picture of my gorgeous cherry bike! This is outside of Wanda Plaza before heading home with some groceries:
I don’t care how silly it may be. I can ride a bike! In China! Through crazy traffic and scooters galore! Yay me!