This I Believe

Amy - New York, New York
Entered on May 30, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I Believe It’s Never Too Late to be the person you might have been

For most of my life, if asked to choose a slogan to describe myself, I would have picked, “I fear, therefore I am.” This was what I believed. I viewed myself as the emotional equivalent of a cheap piñata, one hard blow and that would be it. But then, at thirty-five, I faced a series of hard blows. I got fired from my job; the man I hoped to marry broke up with me, and in a direct line of cause and effect, I developed a wine colored rash on my face that lasted months. But that wasn’t even the worst thing – my mother had died the year before of a brain tumor. She was my rock and losing her was the thing I had feared most my whole life. It was the worst thing imaginable and now it had happened.

So there I was: no job, no boyfriend, no mother, no face, and no idea of who I was.

If I’d known that teaching myself to ride a bicycle would forever change me, I would have been too afraid to try. Growing up, I’d never learned how. My mother battled cancer several times and amidst all the busyness of illness, I was afraid (there’s that word again), to ask anyone to teach me.

At thirty-five, with nothing more to lose, I bought a bike—a bike with a seat so big it was practically a Barcolounger. I wore so much padding that I looked like a heftier Michellin Man, which helped as I constantly crashed into things—roads, trees, parked cars, the side of a chowder shack. But even covered with bruises, even knowing that I looked like a complete idiot, every weekend I would get back on my bike. I went from being able to ride five unwieldy revolutions to ten (this took over a month). But more than that, the voice in my head, the one that chanted, “you’re too chicken for this,” was now telling me, “forward, just go forward.” Which lead me to ask, how much can you change about yourself after a certain age? I mean, really change. Can you go from being scared to scrappy? From a cheap piñata to a person who now understood that, however difficult, she could handle anything? I came to understand, to believe, that the answer was yes. Yes! And now I’d never be the same.

Learning to ride a bicycle at thirty-five convinced me I could do anything, at any age. That was something I’d never felt before. I think because this realization came late, I appreciate it more. I’ve since gone on bike trips to New Zealand and The Canadian Rockies, and even now I think, “Wow, I’m actually riding a bicycle!”

I believe, as George Elliot said, “it’s never too late to be the person you might have been.” You can change anything about yourself at any time. I know that now. It’s as simple as learning to ride a bicycle.