A lack of control

November 11, 2012

I can ride a bike, but I've never been any good at it. I've never figured out how to ride without holding the handle bars, for example. And it's become quite apparent I don't have a talent for it whatsoever now that I'm living in a place where riding a bike is extremely convenient to get around with (meaning, it's not very practical to have a car due to the close proximity of things and the prevalence of public transportation).

Every time I have to weave through a group of people, I always come close to grazing someone. I actually consider it a miracle it hasn't happened yet. When I'm walking on the street, I'm amazed at how practically everyone I see riding a bike, from a child to a mother carrying her baby to those speedsters on road bikes, can do it so effortlessly.

I think I understand the source of my discomfort when riding a bike. It's my lack of control. I mean, I have it to a large degree, but it's that little buffer of wobble you have to account for. And once in a while, you bump or even fall a little bit outside that buffer, and when there are people around, your imagination starts to get the better of you and you worry. When I'm walking, I have precise control over the position of my body at any time, and when that sense of control is gone when I'm riding a bike, well, I freak out.

But when you stop to think about it, this is the same with everything. First of all, you can always get better at it. I could practice riding a bike every day, and I could shave that level of unpredictability down to very low, but it's still there. It's like playing tennis. In the beginning, you can hardly keep the ball in the court, but you get better and better and eventually you might even be able to hit the line consistently. But there's still that microscopic lack of control. Same with playing the violin. It feels so awkward to hold the thing at first. After years and years and it becomes second nature. But you can feel there's always that space you have yet to move into, that room to improve.

That lack of control, that space, is part of the fun, and part of the key to doing it well. To learn to roll with it. I think about my work sometimes, and how I am getting better and better at what I'm doing every day, and how much I love that, but at the same time I think about how I have an almost infinite amount of space to get better, and how, putting it in perspective, I almost don't know what I'm doing, but that's what's exciting. To give in to that lack of control, and let something else in you take the steering wheel, to react to the stuff in the future you can't predict.

I think that's why I haven't actually hit anyone with my bike, even though I lack the confidence to confidently go through a crowd of people. When my heart skips a beat because I get close, I let my body get myself out of the split-second sticky situation. And when I see these people on the street here every day blow by me by inches, I wonder if they're doing the same thing. I see them wobble the same amount as me. They might just be used to it, trusting themself to get themselves out of whatever momentary sticky situation they're in.