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On Facing a Childish Fear

On Facing a Childish Fear

As a kid, I used to spend my summer afternoons maneuvering my pink four-wheeled bike -- you know, that which has a matching purple basket in front and two trainer wheels at the back. Every time I go farther than my record distance, I would feel so proud of myself.

Somehow, perhaps, I have an innate competitive spirit -- and I had no friends or siblings to compete with, only myself.

One afternoon, however, as I tried to challenge myself to break the best record only I keep and only I know, I biked to as far as the street next to where my home stood. I may have spent about 20 minutes then; I couldn’t remember.

Giddy and excited, I couldn’t wait to tell my parents about my adventures -- that I leveled up, that I reached the street at the back of our house, an area in our subdivision I could not remember ever setting my foot on, by biking! I deemed it a bonus that I was on my own!

But my parents weren’t as happy as I thought they would be. They scolded me for not asking their permission. They said I could have been kidnapped, or something, and I didn’t even know what dangers lurked outside.

For reasons I cannot remember now, I hadn’t rode a bike since then.

Through the years, I hadn’t thought much about what I was missing. In the city, automobiles are still the primary modes of transportation, and, while biking is encouraged, the government hasn’t really set up a system that will make bikers secure.

One day, though, I had this nagging sense of wonder: how does it feel like to ride a bike? It must have been fun, I thought. I could imagine the cold breeze slapping my face. I could imagine the sceneries I would have witnessed had I learned to cycle. I could imagine the comforting sense of exhaustion the activity would render me.

I called for help. I looked for bike rentals online, and, when I couldn’t find any at a reasonable price, I asked friends if I could borrow their bicycles. I asked a dear friend to patiently teach me the ways; I was a willing and persevering student. I thought it wasn’t too late -- it was never too late -- to try something new.

Within a week, I often found myself in an empty parking space either across a cultural center or inside a park, trying to make my way aboard a two-wheeled vehicle, with two hands holding the back end of the bike, helping me keep my balance.

Pedaling is as basic as walking; the proper gripping of gears is a skill that can be learned through practice. Letting go of the pair of hands that guide you and your bike, however, takes more courage.

Balancing thereafter, amid the fear of falling and, consequently embarrassing yourself and skinning your knees, posed a bigger challenge. I realized I had to look beyond the immediate risks so I may be able to find the joy of biking that I had always envied in other cyclists.

It took me three afternoons. But, hey, at 22, I learned to bike and get over my fear.

More than the fun biking entails, though, there were life lessons I learned from the experience.

1. Strive to be a better version of yourself. Compete with yourself.

2. Never be afraid to ask for help. Many are willing to guide you; you just have to find them.

3. Everything can be taught, and everything can be learned -- if you want it badly enough.

4. There will always be risks, but they never outweigh the learnings that will come from the experience.

5. Once you let go of your fears, you will find freedom.

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