It's Never Too Late
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Health and Wellness

It's Never Too Late

Overcoming challenges in life and staying healthy while doing so.

It's Never Too Late

I'm well into my last years as a teenager, and last week I learned how to ride a bike. Yes, for the first time.

The truth isI just never got around to it as a kid. I didn't get that luxury due to complicated situations as a child. But I am blessed with a humble and caring boss that bought me a special bike andmade sure I learned how to ride when Irevealed this to her. I guess it is true what they say, "It's never too late."

Over the years, I mostly hid this fact, but sometimes I would try to glorify it as a mark of my intellectualism and eccentricity. But, of course, that was all a façade. So since I'll be going off to college in a few weeks, I thought it'd be best to just have a fresh start anddedicatemy timeto personal improvement. Learning how to bike was a milestone I thoughtI'dnever pass.

At first, I was super scared and excited. It was one of those moments where you're overwhelmed with so many feelings and you're not sure how to feel (like crying and laughing simultaneously and uncontrollably). It took me three hours to learn how to balance and glide in a straight line without pedals. It didn't matter that I was in theswelteringheat because I was determined and had such a great support system rooting me on. Relieved, I got my pedals put back on and had to learn how to use the brakes (this bike didn't have brakes attached to the handle bar).I took at it, over and over. I had a lot of crashes and wrong turns. Ittook another long, exhausting, highly embarrassing (due to the little kids asking and laughing at me while I was trying to learn)hour of trying to pedal more than one yard and then falling over, but at the end, I was able to actually achieve lift-off for roughly 20 yards (before I hit the brakes and decided to call it a day).

Today was thefirsttime since then that I went on my bike for a ride and the feeling I had while riding was like no other. It was like I overcame it and was just on top of the world. As I writethis, I'm finally able to say I wouldn't be too afraid to make a total clown of myself if a friend asked me to join them on a bike ride.

Believe it or not, this was an experience that I'm very proud of and would never forget.But more importantly, it taught me a few things.

1. Humility is good for you.

That's the first and most important lesson. I was partly ashamed and excited that I was going to learn how to ride a bike and get my very first bike.

And second, well, being a grownup who is trying to ride a bike and manifestly failing, in the middle of the street, is pretty embarrassing. Yep, I got jeers and disbelieving laughs from teens in the street. And it felt awful.

But, in a way — good. I don't know about you, but I spend too much of my time reassuring myself by looking down on other people. And remembering that teens, yes,teens, who have never had a real job, who know so little about real life, my life, who — for crying out loud! probably don't even know the difference between Plato and Aristotle, can't do any more than just that, was satisfyingly grounding. I needed the reality check.

2. Sometimes, there are no shortcuts.

We all look for shortcuts. Whether through "life hacks" or get-rich-quick or get-thin-quick schemes, we want to find the trick that lets us skip the drudgery necessary for achieving our goals.

And, well, sometimes there really are shortcuts (I'm pretty sure I've never done the assigned reading for any class I ever took). But sometimes there just aren't. You're not going to learn how to bike by watching a YouTube video or learning more about physics or being really strategic about it. You just need to put in the work. You just need to fail at it over and over (and over and over), until you fail slightly less.

Turns out common sense is right: There's no substitute for putting in the work. And even though I survived and managed, I probably should've done those readings, too.

3. "Do or do not. There is no try."

Another great thing about riding a bike is that it's pretty binary. You can either do it or you can't. Obviously once you can do it, you can get better at it, but fundamentally it's pretty binary. Which leaves you with no excuse.

With so many other things in life being much less black-or-white, we can create easy excuses for ourselves. "Oh, sure, I'm not in the best shape I could be, but I'm not in the worst shape either, so I'm doing OK." This me currently, by the way. "Oh, sure, I'm not the best writer I could be, but I'm an OK writer." Yes, this is also me. You got me! Of course, you can't be fanatical about everything you pursue in life, but there's a difference to not pursuing something doggedly because of limited resources and not doing it because you're kidding yourself.

Instead of saying "I want to exercise more," set yourself clear, ambitious-but-attainable goals and then meet them. As Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try."

4. Mind and body are one.

As I kept swerving to avoid crashing into the little kids and running into trees or cones (and/or falling down), I kept thinking (because I'm weird) of the venerable Biblical teaching that every human being is a unity of body and spirit. I'm not a mind or a soul that has a body, I'm a body that has a mind and a soul.

The process by which we can forget our own minds and actually balance ourselves on these precarious objects is positively mystical. Whether it's biking, or acting, or singing, or dancing, or whatever, we've all gone through that grueling and mysterious process of trying to do something physically non-intuitive and growing from ineptitude to second nature through sheer repetition.

The way our body learns this is simply amazing. My conscious mind isn't telling my body to balance this way and that way to keep the bike steady — in fact, as I know from painful experience, that's the surest way to lose your balance. When making a 90° turn today, I noticed how I shifted my hips slightly to tilt my weight to the side and help the bike turn, even though that's something I never consciously decided or tried to do. But once I became aware of this movement, I was able, over time, to consciously summon it to make turns more smoothly.

5. Cherish the small things.

Here I am, yapping about going on a bike ride for the first time. Maybe it's a bit braggadocios. OK yeah, it probably is. But, then again, we really should cherish the small things. It really is an amazing thing, when you think about it, that we're able to propel ourselves on these contraptions that according to all good sense we shouldn't ever be able to balance ourselves on. Most people who take their bike for a ride mostly don't think about how amazing what they're doing really is, but it's positively entrancing, in the way that every child's glance, every flower, every cloud, every butterfly, every smile, is a thing of unique and profound beauty. We live our lives surrounded by miracles which we take for granted. And we shouldn't. And if you think this paragraph is too mawkish, I'm sorry but your life seems dull.

6. Mastery feels great.

Mastery is an amazing feeling, and as long as it's over things or hobbies, not people, it's healthy. And even though it's common sense, we all probably still need a reminder of this. Not just because it helps us get over the hump of the drudgery of an undertaking, before it feels good. But also because we should all have something in life that we're motivated to get better at for no other reason than that thing itself.

If being a more desirable potential mate is the only thing that gets you to drag yourself to the gym, fine, but the end goal should be for you to enjoy jogging or working out for its own sake. That's what is ultimately most fulfilling.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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