Stay Strong, Keep Pedalling

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When I turned 18, I finally decided to learn to bike.

I had earlier tried learning once or twice, unsuccessfully of course, but this time something had changed. I somehow believed without a single doubt that I was going to succeed, even if it meant putting in two hours of practice everyday. It was a type of dedication that seldom presented itself and I was going to grasp this one firmly with both hands.

I remember revealing to my two friends who lived next to me the bitter reality of my inability to ride the “common children’s bike” with such coyness and timidity as though I was making an affirmation of guilt. As though I had done something morally wrong by not being able to ride a bike at 18. I watched them burst into laughter.

I laughed along of course; no need to make things awkward.

Anyway, being my friends, both of them really had no choice but to teach me this ‘art’ which they were fortunate enough to have perfected at childhood. Although now, in hindsight, their constant reminders of how easy it was for them to learn to ride the bike seems to be the job they did best. Nonetheless, they managed to show me a few tricks on our elected first day of practice.

“This ought to be easy,” I thought to myself as I watched my new tutors take turns on the one bike we had. They made guiding the two-wheeled vehicle that seemed to have a mind of its own whenever it was in my possession seem so undemanding; not in anyway hurried or forced. One of them would show me astonishing tricks like the one-wheeled flick or the high speed swift brake and the other would prove his superiority by demonstrating even more beyond-belief biking-skillfulness, and I would sit there like the Ibo bride whose hand in marriage was being sought out by two worthy wrestlers, staring in marvel while simultaneously praising them in astonishment.

Slowly but steadily, my turn to give riding a shot had come. I took a deep breath and mounted the bike. “How hard could this possibly be Dika?” I thought to myself as I placed my feet on the pedals. Another deep breath and I pushed a pedal down. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right… and boom I tumbled off the bike onto the asphalt of the not so empty sidewalk. Laughter erupted, this time from more than two people.

“Wow, I didn’t think there existed people his age that can’t ride,” I heard as the laughter amplified. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame anybody for laughing at me. In all honesty, if I happen to see a 6 foot 5, 18 year-old man awkwardly fall off a more or less motionless bike on the streets of Mississauga, I’d probably burst into immense and uncontrollable mirth as well. But alas I inevitably took in all the jokes, both the good and bad ones. I called it a day and thought with ambiguity of the potential existence of my second day of practice. Whether it was going to happen or not, I did not know. Uncertainty and cynicism had overcome my mind and everybody around seemed to find it funny.

I skipped my scheduled practice the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, until I felt my confidence was somewhat restored. I then decided to try again, this time on an emptier road. Sadly, things took an even more painful turn. Literally.

I fell down more than ten times and bruised both my kneecaps. I really sucked at biking and this was made worse by the fact that I had nobody to convince me otherwise. Yet again, I called it a day rather prematurely and then the thoughts of my inadequacy began to come in their multitudes.

“Maybe you should quit, Dika.”

“It’s not your fault, it’s just… well c’mon, you know you’re too old to start learning.”

“Dude, have you ever seen a guy your size ride a bike? Yeah, me neither.”

They were like arrows to my already bruised chest telling me how certain they were that I would never really be able to master the art of biking and I almost believed them. But I didn’t.

I convinced myself that things didn’t always come early and that I would have to fight, and in every fight, that I WOULD MOST CERTAINLY be bruised, broken down and smashed over before I would succeed. But when success comes, the bruises would heal and the feel of triumph would overcome all. This became my drug and it was a fast-working one.

To cut the long story short, I didn’t let my poor start get the best of me. I practiced constantly and noticed that I got better with each passing day. I am now proud to say that I ride my bike every day the road isn’t covered with inches of snow (Oh Canada) and it’s quite simply become my favorite hobby.

My experience learning how to bike has, as odd as it seems, helped me accomplish many goals in life. I ended up achieving so many things I had previously deemed impossible to achieve. As much as this may be hard to believe, learning to ride that bike was what made me feel like I could reach these goals. It made me believe in myself and in the hope of eventually reaching the pinnacles that I desired to reach. It gave me the right persevering attitude in everything I did and taught me to never settle for less. And lastly—and this is the most important thing—it made me see myself as someone who can achieve everything I set my mind to.

So I ask you today, as individuals what can we not achieve? Could there be something holding us back from our goals and dreams? Yes! It’s us, our very own selves!

The famous Bald Eagle that gained popularity for its ability to fly higher than most other birds possesses two special features: a left wing and a right wing.

Get off that negative mindset that others are better than you are and start working until you reach your goals. Always remember that your only true competition is yourself and keep pedaling slowly and steadily in an effort better than your last try.

I hope this article serves as your motive to take a first step (or pedal).

Good luck!

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