Monday, September 17, 2012

How Riding Taught Me How To Live

For the past few weeks you've been reading my movie reviews and I'm extremely humbled by that because it's actually the last thing I thought I would have been blogging about. So I've been thinking long and hard how to introduce myself to you and give you a view of the person behind the blogs, so here it goes.

Play Hard, Fall Hard - sounds like a macho motto, right? [Sometimes I think I need to add "...and get up slow" to the end of that.] That picture is how I spent my Labor Day, I was reeling from the aftermath of another motorcycle wreck; I walked away. Am I infatuated with riding and just don't know when to quit? Maybe. But what I am sure about is how I've matured and learned more about life through riding and wrecking motorcycles than any church service, wise words, or parental talk could give me.

I've seriously bumped my head.

To start from the beginning, when I was a kid I loved my bicycle. The sensation of balancing on 2 wheels fascinates me even to this day and as a kid when I found out they put motors in bicycles and called them "motorcycles" I knew it was only a matter of time before I owned one. I learned to ride motorcycles at 18 and bought my first bike at 24. I now own 2.

Motorcycling has taught me that I can only master myself, not others, and with that comes the maturity of accepting, correcting, and moving on from my own mistakes. My first motorcycle wreck made me keenly aware of my own mortality, I was in shock and awe to learn that I wasn't invincible. The "invincibility" I thought I had was that I could never make a mistake - I was wrong. In reflecting on the circumstances of the accident I chose to accept all responsibility because no matter how much I could blame the other car I still made a mistake that put me on the ground. In my own self loathing from that first accident I grew up. [And believe me, there is no self loathing like wrecking your bike.] I didn't blame anybody else but me even though any and everyone sympathized with the circumstances. I learned something and with that new knowledge how could I not ride again and challenge myself not to make that same mistake? I considered it a life lesson so to not ride again would be more than not riding, it would be not living. And the "lessons" kept coming. Different crashes with different circumstances with different lessons learned.

Now all of a sudden I have uncanny control over my own fate because I took my life into my own hands for the very first time. My own decisions and awareness dictated whether or not I arrived safely at my destination. Self preservation was no longer passive to me - it was active, purposeful, and even methodical. Riding requires constant self evaluation and introspection. Each ride is a new ride and good riding is comprehensive, not cumulative. It's doesn't matter how "well" you rode the previous ride or how many years you've gone without a wreck because you can die on the next ride. I no longer had a false sense of security, a sense that comes with a rolling steel cage, a proverbial bubble. [I don't even have security in the $1,000 worth of motorcycle gear I wear, that's just preparation - that's how you prepare to walk away from a crash.] Instead, I chose to develop my riding after learning the hard way there is more to riding than clutching, accelerating, and braking. I've pushed limits in inappropriate places fortunate enough to owe less than my life when I hit the ground but I've also pushed limits and mastered new techniques that made for safer riding, saved my life, and even spared the life of other riders.

Riding has also taught me a new respect for other people's decisions. People ride for different reasons and I have to be careful not to marginalize a person for not riding for what I ride for. The same principle applies to life. People choose to live different ways, suited to their goals, so who am I to say they're living wrong? I'd rather focus all of my energy to make sure that I'm living right.

But all of this didn't come without questioning, wondering if I was on some macho power trip to prove (to I don't know who) how tough I was or that I wasn't a quitter. My resolve to get up and ride again after each crash didn't come easy because crashing ain't cool. Crashing is equated to not only failing but also being wrong (about your choice to ride). And failing and being wrong is looked down upon in our Western culture. If you fail at something you're expected to find something new to not fail at, loser. And being wrong is synonymous with weakness, you're supposed to be right, it makes you a stronger person. But how strong can you be by being right all the time? Never having a failure to learn from?

I told you I bumped my head.

I'm still learning how to apply all of these lessons to my everyday living but I definitely see the connection; my perspective is not the same. I believe people are earnestly concerned for my well being when suggesting that I trade my bike for a car (I haven't owned one in 2 years) but it's the safety that they want me to have in a car that I know only comes from taking my life into my own hands and not buckling my cares into the driver's seat.

So what would it take for me to stop riding? Other than dying, if I can't tell you why I wrecked, had no idea what I did wrong, learned no lesson from why I went down then I'll hang up riding motorcycles for good. You have my word. But until then, I have a bike to go fix.


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