Two wheels.

There’s moments in our lives that change everything that will come after that moment. And that’s all it is, a moment. But yet the ripple effect that it leaves on our lives changes everything. One second everything is one way, and the next second it’s completely different and altered the world that is your universe leaving you feeling uneasy, and not all to sure of how to move forward or where to go next.

When I was six I was hit by a car. I’ve been saying that sentence to a select few for over seventeen years, and it’s seldom that I really go into the details of exactly what that means. When I was six, I was riding my bike and eating a popsicle and not wearing my helmet. I don’t really know what happened. My guess is I lost control of my bike and ended up in the street. And a car hit me. When I was a kid, the neighbors would tell me how they say me go up in the air. Others tell me it was the scariest day of their lives. I never know what to say. Should I comfort them and apologize or let them feel pity for me? When I was hit by a car, I was a left handed kid. However. The car hit the right side of my brain shaking things up a bit, and thus, paralyzing the left side of my body. There was something in there about a seizure, I’m not exactly sure how long all that lasted.  I broke both the bones in my lower left leg, cracked my skull, and had a collapsed lung. I see six year old kids now, and can’t even imagine what I must have looked like. The doctors told my mother at one point, that they weren’t all too sure if I’d ever wake up. I did though. But all in all I was left with a traumatic brain injury. And when I relearned everything, I did it with my right side.

I had to relearn everything. How to talk. How to eat. Who people were. The alphabet. I even remember when I was finally able to walk by myself again, taking unsteady steps at first. But in all the things I had to relearn, I never exactly got around to relearning how to ride a bike. And I’m sure you can imagine why. Even now, I can still count on two hands the number of times I’ve ridden a bike since all of that happened.

We’re raised knowing certain things. Knowing things that form who we are, and what we do. I grew up knowing I can’t ride a bike. And I never really let it bother me, I mean it’s just a bike. No big deal. But everything else I’ve never been able to do has been centered around the event that left me not able to ride a bike. I’m not coordinated. Not so good with sports. I suck at math. My memory seems to suck the older I get. The list goes on. But still I’ve spent my whole life letting my bike wreck define who I am. As I’m getting older I’m starting to realize that there’s a lot of people who are not coordinated, have crappy memory, are really bad at math, and not athletic, that have never even had a head injury.

And once upon a time a family member challenged me to do a half marathon. Honest to god. In the back of my head, never really thought it would happen. I mean I’m not athletic. Athletic people do half marathons. Yet fast forward a few months, and I’d done a half marathon. It got me thinking. What else can I do that I thought I’d never be able to? And thus I started looking at bicycling. Now I wasn’t looking at it with my direct vision, but kind of out of the corner of my eye. Acknowledging that it was there.

I had a friend loan me a bike not too long ago. I got the tires changed, and tuned it up a bit. I didn’t want to invest too much into something that might be a total flop. But finally it was ready to go, and I hopped on. I was nervous to see what would happen. I put the feet on the pedals and began to move them, and what do you know. I didn’t fall. I mean I was a little wobbly at first. But I didn’t fall. The world didn’t end. And even though my mother tells me I’m being overly dramatic, I felt a huge release. Everything insecurity I’d ever had about not being able to ride a bike was gone. I could ride a bike.

I honestly don’t think anyone will ever be able to understand how freeing it was. It wasn’t even a matter of being on the bike. I mean I have a car. And I don’t mind walking places. But it was me proving that I really could do anything I wanted. I just had to get out of my own way. And for the first time I honestly feel like something that happened such a very long time ago, no longer has such a tight grip on the life that I’m living now.

Another bit….

I’d spent a weekend and a Monday filling out 18 pages of forms that had been due the Thursday before. But I’d only received the papers that Friday. Not only was it 18 pages, but they all had to be done four times, four signatures from one doctor. Four color copies of the same four photos that somehow seemed to explain me. One was me playing a guitar wearing a livestrong bracelet, as if to imply that 1) I could play the guitar or 2) I was in anyway tied with people who were all about “livingstrong”.  There was also the picture of me with my mother, brother, and sister at my brothers naval graduation. I look like a ridiculous fat cow in the picture, but my mother thought it was nice, so I printed out four and cut and pasted.

Two weeks came and passed, and I’d been interviewed by the local Rotary. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that nervous. My odds were good. One of the men had been my DARE officer in the fifth grade, two of them were friends with my grandparents, and another one, I’d swam on the same swim team with his kids when we were young. Even though growing up in a small town sucked, there were advantages to people “knowing you”. After the local interview, it was on to the district interview.

My friend Patrick had prepped me for the district interview. He’d coached me on the right things to say, and about the polio vaccine that had been in the works. I wasn’t sure whether or not to be nervous. I mean there can’t be that many kids applying. Can there? I mean what kind of wing nut besides a few others like me would want to go live abroad in highschool? Well, I found out there were 38, and only 28 would be accepted.