Riding my bicycle beneath the canopy of low-hanging live oak trees of a quiet side street, a pair of small objects to my left redirect a flash of light into my sunglasses.
One of the best things about traveling at seven and a half miles per hour is you can easily detour your plans at a moment’s notice.
Turning the raised handlebars of my cruiser bike, I circled back around.
Sometimes life gives you only a hint of a story, leaving you to fill in the vibrant colors, relatable details and unfamiliar faces. The small objects abandoned on the sidewalk of an otherwise empty road would be my only clue.
Pulling up beside the curb two small, black and silver objects silently began telling a story without details, however, one each of us can relate to and recognize in our own lives.
Sitting on the sidewalk, abandoned and alone, sat a pair of training wheels for a child’s first bicycle.
Pausing and looking around the quiet street, I realized I shared the road with only the breezes running though the branches above and the small, silver and black wheels cast off by their former owner. Like the haunting exoskeleton a nymph cicada leaves behind while molting into an adult, the wheels were a marker in time for someone else to discover.
Training wheels are an important metaphor in nearly everyone’s life. Learning to ride a bicycle is an unnatural instinct. The act plays on our powerful fear of failure and our natural survival instincts of avoiding pain and danger. A wobbly bicycle requires young children to learn to defeat what their minds tell them they simply cannot do. The training wheels dutifully serve as temporary bridge between what they know and understand and the difficult experience of mastering their mind and body over something forcing them far outside of their known comfort zone.
The sound of the breezes sweeping through the branches above reminded me I was still alone on the quiet street.
Learning to leave our training wheels behind is a critical life skill. For the former owner of this particular set of wheels, waiting ahead comes the courage to face a classroom of strange faces on the first day of school following at a dizzying pace of first dates, moving away from family to go to college, and possibly committing to spending life with one special person. Sprinkling between those events will be the successes of earning job promotions, a close friend unexpectedly passing, or even learning the hard lesson that all your dreams may not come true and you need to rewrite your plan.
Leaving your training wheels behind is an important step on a remarkable, unpredictable journey of life. And like the view from between the handlebars we will discover the most beautiful and inspiring moments balanced by the pain that accompanies crashing to the pavement. But to fully enjoy the ride, we must all learn to first leave our training wheels behind.