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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why Life is Like Riding a Bike

Today I bought a bike in Florence. A used, rusty, basic, non-shock-absorbing bike, equipped with a metal basket in the front, a little pink bell, and even a kickstand. Oh yeah.

As I was riding home with a wet, sore ass (well, struggling in that general direction since I realize I always use my GPS and I wasn't able to while riding), a light, simple smile shone across my face as I realized something on this gray, damp Florence day. Life is like riding a bike.

I haven't ridden a bike probably since I was 12, and it felt so awkward mounting something now that wasn't a man. Can I make a reference to sweet childhood memories and my sexual escapades in adulthood in the same sentence without it being in bad taste...? Oh well. I was in public, feeling like Bambi with wheels, and not knowing the rules of road, but was I kidding, it's Italy; there are no rules! I was scared shitless riding on the street with all the scooters, motorscylces and tiny little cars honking and swerving around me, trucks driving 6 inches from my handlebars and all the weird street directions that change in an instant. Next thing you know, you're going the wrong way down a one way street and you can't even ride in straight line. It was awful and scary, yet so liberating all at the same time.

Once I got the hang of it, it all came rushing back to me. Just as I got cocky, I remembered what it felt like to fall off a bike. As an adult, I found myself thinking: These leggings were expensive, the road is wet from last night's rain and I don't even know how to wash this coat. I don't want to be the stupid American girl who falls off her bike and everyone laughs at. What if I hurt myself? I do have bad knees. Damn, my knees...I'm out of shape. Did it always take this much work to push the pedals? I used to be able to ride with no hands. HA! I still do...what is wrong with me?

With the wind in my face and actually having to think about where I'm going without using my phone as a crutch, I enjoyed the feeling of that first freedom of having my own wheels. When you're a kid, having a bike was the best. You feel like you can go anywhere and do anything. You are in complete control. I felt something similar.

This bike is not mine. Also, I bet it was stolen shortly after this picture was taken.

In life, we all have good experiences and bad ones. We learn from the bad and reminisce about the good. Some things we only need to experience once to learn from, while other things take a few dozen times until we get it right (like my love life....still waiting to learn that lesson). Riding a bike is literally something you never forget how to do, even if you haven't done it in years. It may be scary at first, but once you get the hang of it, it seems like a piece of cake. That's kind of how I feel about living at the moment. It's all too easy to get caught up in life, even abroad, worrying about jobs, money, bills, and daily life. But today, with the wind in my hair and the steady rythm of pushing the pedals, I felt like I reconnected with a part of me that had been forgotten. The part of me that wants to travel, appreciates the little things, and is open to new experiences and paths. I fell off my methaphorical bike for a few months being consumed by everyday problems and worrying way too much, but really all I needed was to get back on and enjoy the breeze on my face, even if I didn't know which direction I was going. With all the ups and downs over the past year, this was a great reminder to myself to live. Don't get caught up in what everyone else is doing, just do what makes you happy and keeps you on the path to your goals. Albeit cheesey, it's true.

I now have a bike in Florence. I am officially a Fiorentina. One step closer to being the Italian I'll never actually be. Now, let's just hope it doesn't get stolen.

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