We were no different from the doves above us. We could not speak or cry, but when there was no choice we discovered we could fly. If you want a reason, take this: We yearned for our portion of the sky.
-from The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
I received a bike for my fifth birthday. It was purple and I remember excitedly picking it out at the store. I had so much fun riding my training-wheels-clad bike with my older brother at the playground behind our elementary school. However, my fun was always ruined when my dad wanted to teach me how to balance without training wheels. He would hold the back of the bicycle seat and I would pedal along miserably, knowing he was going to let go. At the first feeling of instability I would freak out and jump off! After a few forced attempts of riding without training wheels I had finally had enough.
"I just want to ride my bike! I don't care if I still have training wheels!"
End of discussion. Every once in a while, over the course of weeks or months, my brother or my parents would ask, "So, you want to have training wheels forever?" Well, no, I didn't but I would retort with, "Yes; I don't care."
The truth was and still is that I hate to fail. Sometimes the fear of failure, and especially of other people witnessing my failure, causes me to quit before I ever start. I second guess myself, I magnify all of my flaws and shortcomings, imagine every worst case scenario and then I let my dreams die. The death is completely justified, in my mind, and I try to convince myself that I prefer my current circumstances when really I hate them.
One summer day, my right foot on the pedal of my bike and the left foot on the ground, I was positioned at the edge of the sidewalk in front of our duplex. Moments prior, I had found my dad's tools and removed my training wheels. It was all or nothing. After having verbally and mentally defeated myself and coming to terms with the fact that I was going to depend on training wheels until I turned 30, I was ready to prove myself wrong. I had prepared for this moment by spending countless hours watching my brother and our neighborhood friends ride their bikes, memorizing how they positioned themselves sitting or standing on the bike, how they leaned forward or to the side. I memorized when their calf muscles flexed and envisioned myself making all the same balanced, fluid movements.
Before launching myself forward, off of the sidewalk and down the "hill", I set a goal. If I could just balance on my bike, without pedaling, and make it to the fence at the back of the yard, I would attempt the ride again, pedaling. I took an exaggerated deep breath in, pulled myself up onto the bike and off I went toward the fence. Wind blew my hair back, a bug collided with my cheek, and I felt a freedom that I can only compare to the first time I flew a plane years and years later. It was like being stuck between two worlds: one full of status quo and the other full of possibilities.
I let the fence stop the bike and I toppled to the side but I had succeeded! I ran my bike back up to the top of the yard and made the trip again, this time pedaling. I gained speed and instead of riding into the fence I decided to try turning as I had watched my brother do so gracefully on his bike. I turned the handlebars, leaned ever so slightly to the left and pedaled back the distance of the yard to the sidewalk. I yelled for my mom, who came out of the house with my baby brother to watch me ride all around the yard. "Watch me! Watch how fast I can go!" I discovered I could fly.
My life is like this. I've learned enough about myself to know that I succeed at things when and how I want to succeed at them. I evaluate and analyze and then, in the quiet by myself, I take what I have learned about what I want to conquer and I develop a process for it and then I own it. I own the face off of it! This is true in any job I've ever held, hobbies, singing in public, leading and teaching, traveling, college, boxing. It's a much quicker and less rebellious process than when I was five and learning to ride a bike. In fact, it looks and smells a lot like confidence. Apprehension is what catapults me into flight. The first feeling of fear is what makes me leap and the assurance that I've done my research is what carries me through.
I am in between two worlds lately. I am leaving the current world of status quo and leaping toward my goals in the world full of possibilities armed with research, observation and experience. I have prepared for this. If you want a reason, take this: I am yearning for my portion of the sky.