The Squiggly Line

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Four months. Four thousand kilometres. Hundreds of hours in the saddle. Tears, frustration, anxiety, excitement and pride. Have all culminated in me earning my coveted Class 6, “official” motorcycle license. One and done. Thank you very much. No do overs, no demerits and no “auto fails”. But more than the license itself, more than the relief of no longer having the road test hanging over me, is the sense of accomplishment I have gained from meeting my goals, and the calm that has come with surmounting fear.

Sometime ago, I can’t pinpoint exactly when, I decided I wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle. After spending some time as a passenger, I started to envision myself on my own motorcycle (classic, old school, retro style).  These daydreams usually entailed me on an epic road trip, saddle bags full of much needed items, including my camera and my notebook. The wind in my hair, the sun on my face, feeling free, feeling like I was flying, riding solo and loving every moment.  I remember pulling out my Passion Planner and turning to a blank page to brainstorm the key components of attaining this goal. As an “A Type” personality there were checklists, time lines and concrete milestones to attain in my quest to meet my goals. And I committed to them.  

Everything was going according to plan, until midway through my professional riding course. In my daydream, I had imagined myself riding out of that course and straight out onto my road trip, taking the curves and the mountain passes like a pro. Maybe not solo, as BOFA (Breath of Fresh Air) would come with me, just in case.  However, it quickly became evident that learning this skill was going to be harder than I thought. The realization came swiftly, as it was something I had learned before and knew all along, learning something new, especially a new skill, takes dedication, commitment and time. Lots of time. Four months, four thousand kilometres and hundreds of hours. I was not going to sail out of my course an expert rider, with the ability to navigate every road, every situation, every potential hazard. With more realistic expectations, I emerged with some basic handling skills, the ability to control my bike, and the understanding that the real learning was about to begin.

The day I went to pick up my very own, brand new motorcycle, I was filled with excitement mixed with a very strong current of terror.  I, somewhat naively, jumped on my bike with a sheer determination to get it home, while BOFA rode with me, experiencing first hand my painful attempt to ride.  I sucked. This was not part of the plan. When we finally, and in many ways miraculously, parked Fred (my bike) in our designated underground space, took the obligatory ‘first ride’ selfies, and locked the ignition, I let out a big sigh of relief and started to shake.  That shaking would continue for a vast majority of those 4000 km. Every time BOFA would say, “Let’s go for a ride!” I would find endless excuses as to why I could not possibly go, and every one of them he would debunk. Leaving me excuse-less. Donning my riding gear, grabbing my helmet and my key became a ritual where I would attempt to self-talk myself off the proverbial ledge.  Once on Fred, my trusty steed, my right leg would start to shake, similar to too much coffee shake. After a few blocks, the shake would disappear as I settled into my ride.  

Steadily, I improved.  With every kilometer, with every hour and every new experience in the saddle. With BOFA’s calm voice inside my helmet, he coached me around corners, through intersections and most importantly through the twisty roads, reminding me to trust the bike, to look where I want to go, to lean with the bike, and to countersteer.  The shake disappeared, as did the excuses. Soon I was suggesting the ride, longer rides, more challenging, technical rides. 

I realized that, despite my plan, it would not be possible for me to experience every single possibility, combination or permutation, of roads, conditions, intersections, other drivers’ decisions, and on and on.  There would always be something new, always be a situation I had not encountered, something I have not experienced or seen before. Something that did not go according to plan. Life, the road, and the ride, will always throw curveballs.  The “Squiggly Line” sign that used to cause anxiety and my right leg shake to return, is now exciting. Armed with the knowledge of who I am, and who I am as a rider; and, with skills and the ability to assess and make decisions, that sign now evokes excitement.  It signals another chance to practice my skills, to get better at finding my way. Life rarely goes in a straight line, it rarely presents what I expect, it rarely goes according to plan. There are always twists and turns and unexpected surprises. By continuing to navigate the twisties, in the discomfort of the unknown, I not only learn, change and grow, but I have also discovered my immense resilience, the depth of my abilities, my unending perseverance, and I have determined what it means to ride my own ride, and I’m riding it.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be ~ Douglas Adams

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