how NOT to ride a bike

What if we’d learned to live our lives the way we learned to ride a bike?

Actually, let’s do it this way: what if we’d learned to ride a bike the way we learned to live our lives?

We would have never learned to ride a bike, that’s what.

I’m imagining an alternate universe where my dad has just removed my training wheels and he’s bracing the bicycle while I climb on. “Okay, honey,” he says, “The first thing to know about riding a bike is that it’s really hard. It takes effort and vigilance. You need to constantly think about keeping your weight perfectly centered on the seat, or you’ll fall over. Which will really hurt. You also need to be very careful to avoid cracks, bumps, sticks, or anything that might trip you up. Even when you’re as old as me, honey, you won’t know how to deal with every kind of obstacle. Best to just avoid them.”

As he sees the panic-stricken look on my face, he adds, “But don’t worry, sweetie. I’ve packed a backpack full of bicycle manuals, bike-riding advice columns, and balancing medications to help you stay upright.”

I hold my breath, clench my stomach, hike up my shoulders, and he pushes me down the sidewalk. I don’t dare pedal. Maybe if I hold very still, I’ll stay balanced. The bike slows down, starts to teeter — I overcompensate a few times, and fall. Hard.

I try again. Thanks to my sharp mind, contracted muscles, and fear of falling, I manage to stay up a little longer before falling again.

By the third time, I’m pedaling, but every time I push one leg down, I worry that I’m throwing the bike out of balance, so I make sure to shift my weight to the other side, and then I see a bump in the sidewalk and I don’t have the time or free hands to consult one of my backpack resources about how to handle bumps in the sidewalk, and so I try to stop, but I haven’t learned how to stop either, so I close my eyes and pull the brakes hard, hurling myself over the front of the bike.

That’s it. No more bike riding for me.

This is how I felt about life for a long time. No more life for me. Until recently, when I began to see how similar living life and riding a bike (the right way) really are.

The way I actually learned to ride a bike was easy, wasn’t it? I remember my father instilling faith in me that this was something that worked almost all on its own. There wasn’t much I had to do. At some point, I felt what it was to be in flow, to really go, and that was it.

What if this is how living life works, too? What if it’s something that works almost all on its own? What if there isn’t much we have to do? We all have moments when we’ve been in flow, when we really go. And what if that’s really all there is to it?

Well… it’s worth a shot, right?


Brooke teaches clarity to creatives, activists, and educators: helping you gain greater access to your own best ideas — anytime, anywhere — so you can start doing all the awesome shit you were born to do.

You can find her writing weekly here on Medium and at brookebishop.com. Click the heart if you like what you see, and sign up for weekly updates using the form below.