I took a tumble on my bike the other day…
I surprised my fiance with a bike for his birthday in December. I also got one for myself because I was actually using his birthday as an excuse to buy me something I’ve been wanting. Hah! Sorry, not sorry.
When I got these bikes, I knew full well he was going to use his for more adventurous rides. I knew that I’d use mine to stroll the streets of my neighborhood like I did when I was a kid. Sidewalks are safe.
I’m not the most adventurous person.
That’s the understatement of the month. Not only am I not adventurous, but I’m also incredibly risk-averse. I don’t gamble. I don’t love spontaneity. I stick to sidewalks.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that I was beyond annoyed when he coaxed me out to ride with him on some nearby trails.
He told me the trail was easy.
He rode it on his own a day before and felt I’d be able to ride it, no problem.
Accept that when I got there, there was a problem. There were no paved sidewalks! It was full-on trails with hills, rocks, roots, and things I just didn’t associate with my kind of bike ride.
We went down several paths and I was breaking a sweat.
I’m not sure if it was because the trail was more challenging than I’m used to or if it was pure fear dripping out.
Some parts were so steep I had to stop, hop off and walk my bike to the next area that was suitable for me to ride. He told me as we approached a challenging section of a trail, “Trust your bike, it can take this”.
I rolled my eyes and thought “It’s not my bike I don’t trust. It’s me!”
About 20 minutes into it, my fiance realized that I wasn’t having a good time so we backtracked it outta there and found a windy sidewalk that intersected with a nice even running trail. I was back in my element.
This ride didn’t seem fun though.
I kept thinking about how it now seemed boring to ride my bike on the sidewalk. There weren’t any obstacles but there weren’t any good views either.
I kept thinking about how frustrating it was to see my fiance approach hills and push full force to make it to the top. Meanwhile, I had to walk mine up. I kept thinking about how he didn’t even hesitate as he came up on a steep descent but I was too afraid to even attempt to go down.
It’s me I don’t trust.
Those words kept playing in my head.
For days, I thought about how this was yet another instance in life where I let fear take the wheel – or in this case, the handlebar – and dictate my direction. I let fear stop me from pursuing something I found interesting. I had so little trust in myself that I wouldn’t even attempt to take on a new challenge.
This was the same old ending to a different chapter of my book. This story was getting old!
I asked to go back to the trail a week later.
We took some paths that were harder than my perfectly paved sidewalks but not so hard that I couldn’t ride them. They were by no means advanced level trails – they were just advanced for me.
Like before, I broke out into a sweat almost instantly. But unlike before, I didn’t hop off my bike when I encountered challenging terrain. Instead, I assessed what I was coming up on, took a deep breath, and dug deep for a little courage.
Every time I made it up or down a hill that scared me, it felt so rewarding! I loved the look on my fiance’s face too. He was impressed with my determination, and so was I.
I was learning to face my fears – I was starting to build trust in myself.
And then… I fell.
On one dreary Sunday, my confidence felt especially low. I even expressed that to my fiance before we started our ride. But not having confidence in myself is nothing new so we set off to start our ride anyway.
As soon as I hopped on my bike, I was off it again.
I’m not even kidding, we went a total of 20 feet before I was flung off!
I was crossing a tiny creek bed when my front wheel hit a crevice a little too deep and a little too wide for it to cover. My bike halted to a stop, the tire got stuck and I flew forward over my handlebars. Before I knew it, I was flat on the ground.
There was a mom, dad, and daughter on a walk who witnessed the whole thing too. I felt so embarrassed that I couldn’t even bring myself to look in their direction. I knew I’d see looks of concern which would further add to my humiliation.
What’s worse than falling? Falling with an audience!
I quickly lifted myself up and pulled my bike out of the gaping crevice in the ground. I should have known better than to cross it to begin with. I was filled with embarrassment and while my ego was bruised, I realized that I myself was completely fine. I was a little shaky but had only the most superficial scrapes.
I indicated to my fiance that I was fine to keep riding so that’s what we did.
I shook off the embarrassment and focused on enjoying the ride.
We encountered new paths we hadn’t yet ridden down before which presented new challenges. There were some intense uphills that I nearly reached the top of. Even when I’d realize I wasn’t going to make it to the top, it felt so good to push as hard as I could.
These new trails were gorgeous too. They were winding and full of trees – we felt far away from the city even though we were a stone’s throw away from home. We came across a peaceful creek where we stopped to skip rocks. It was one of the best rides yet!
Despite the fall, I loved that ride. That’s when it clicked for me…
It’s not about avoiding the falls.
I spent so much time riding my bike in fear of falling. I stuck to safe streets and routes I knew presented no obstacles because that seemed like the only way to avoid a fall. I really don’t want to get hurt. I mean, who does?
But after having my first spill, I realized that avoiding the fall only means avoiding the rewarding things that come with a great ride. It means missing new views and a thrill that only two wheels and seclusion in nature bring. It means not growing and not becoming more skilled. It means always playing it safe and always playing small.
These were such eye-opening lessons to have learned from one little spill.
But the biggest thing falling off my bike taught me was that I trust myself.
Yes, I did fall. And yes, I got a few scrapes and was a little shaky after. But No, I didn’t stay down and I didn’t stop riding. I learned to trust that I could fall and be ok. I learned to trust that I could get back up and keep going.
Bike riders know that they will fall every once in a while.
It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN. And they’re ok with that.
Their acceptance of this allows them to climb new heights and reach milestones us sidewalk straddlers could never reach. They know that falling comes with the territory. They know that when falls happen, they’ll be ok, get back up and keep going.
It’s just like life, isn’t it?
In our lives, we WILL fall. Like riding, falling isn’t a maybe, it’s an absolute.
We’ll fall at least once in our lives – some of us will fall many times. Some of our falls will be so bad we’ll need to stay down a bit and allow ourselves time to heal. But once we accept that this is just part of life, we allow ourselves to take the more adventurous journey.
If you’re sitting here reading this and you know you’re trying to avoid life’s falls, I’ve got bad news for you. You Can’t. And in your attempt at doing so, you’ll miss all the great things life has to offer. Things like gorgeous views, love worth writing about, success you never imagined, and achievement you only thought possible in your dreams.
You’ll also miss the most important thing you can ever learn about yourself…
You’ll miss the opportunity to learn that you can survive a fall and be ok.
When you fall, you get the chance to dust yourself off, get back up, and go again. You witness your own strength and resilience in action. You build trust in yourself and get to see exactly what you’re capable of when you face your fears.
Not falling only means that you’re avoiding the risks. And in avoiding the risks, you’re avoiding the most beautiful of rewards.
Are you approaching your own challenging terrain?
Maybe you’re coming up on a big risk that scares you. Or maybe you’ve found that you’ve just fallen from taking a big risk? That’s ok. We all fall.
But you can choose what to focus on. You can focus on the pain and embarrassment of a fall and let it prevent you from moving forward. Or you focus on the getting back up part and realizing what you’re capable of surviving. The choice is all your own.
Life is one daring adventure. How do you want to ride it out?