The eight-year-old zipped past me, confidently swooping down the hill, sitting up straight on her bike, with the bows at the ends of her braids flying. It was a humbling experience to be 41 years old and just learning to ride a bike. It was something I thought I would never be able to do.
I had been embarrassed about not being able to ride since childhood. I had tried a few times as a kid, but not consistently. Due to childhood vision and balance problems, I had not successfully balanced or ridden more than a few feet without falling. I finally decided learning was impossible for me, and I let my fear keep me from trying.
But at 41, I had determined I would not let this one thing conquer me, so I bought a bike and signed up for lessons with the Cascade Bicycle Club. That’s how I found myself at the top of a small hill in Magnuson Park, with my stomach somewhere down around my knees, on a spindly little thing with only two wheels between me and total disaster. I’d been practicing for some time and was excited about learning — but a bit embarrassed and afraid too.
However, this was the summer of conquering things for me. I’d been a teacher and instructional coach for twelve years. Six years earlier, within weeks of completing my administrative credential, my husband’s pastoral job called us from Los Angeles to Seattle.
Learning to Ride a Bike Taught Me More Lessons Than I Imagined
I knew I wanted to be an administrator and believed this was God’s plan for me, but life circumstances and my own fear kept me from truly seeking the job I wanted. I stayed in instructional and coaching roles and didn’t really put myself out there. That Spring, I applied to be in the assistant principal pool and was accepted, but I had not been chosen for a position yet.
I didn’t consciously choose riding a bike as my courage test, but that is what it became. As I gained confidence riding, I could tell myself, “You learned to ride a bike. What else can you do?”
Later that year, as an opening came up for an assistant principal job, I stepped into the role, knowing I would have a lot to learn but feeling confident that I would be able to do it. I used the story of learning to ride a bike at the age of 41 as a way of encouraging kids and others to try and do things they never thought they could.
Now, a decade later, I’m not a great cyclist, but I was a successful, courageous when needed, principal for eight years. This year, God is leading me through another big and unexpected life change. I’ve stepped down from administration and am restructuring my life to be more available to care for my husband through a time of health concerns. I’m learning a new job, moving to a new city, and working on becoming a writer. When self-doubt creeps in, I still tell myself, “Rachel, you can ride a bike!”
But that day, feeling a bit shamed by the 8-year-old, I called up my courage, put my foot on the pedal, and pushed off down the hill. And I was riding!