Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Change of perspective

The weather was beautiful all week, and I was stuck with a cold. A perfect week to ride my bike or just walk, and any effort that was more than slugging up a block was too draining. Still, it was an easy adjustment - all bussing rather than walking. But, when it came to the weekend and we were due at my friend, Katie's house who lives less than a mile from us (probably only 15 blocks max), I had to ride bikes with my 5 year old.

He was awesome. Though he hasn't ridden in a while during these winter months, he still rides perfectly after just having learned to ride without training wheels this last summer. He handled the hills that I had feared without issue. It's one of my favorite activities to do with him. Though I have to say, now that he's getting older, there are so many activities I love doing with him - drawing, hiking, playing chess, reading Harry Potter. And, I'm able to write how much I love him because I am also able to go out to the wine bar to write for the night!

What struck me about the bike ride, was that I had never realized how close I really live to Katie. And I realized my perspective of distance is totally different as an adult vs. as it was when I was a kid and rode my bike everywhere, and it was the opposite of what I expected.

As a kid, a bike is one of the first significant freedoms after being allowed / old enough to cross the street by yourself. Suddenly, you're able to go wherever you want, some trips just take longer. So distance was not really an issue. Just about everyone I knew in the world was in biking distance (and a lot were in walking distance). As my circle of friends grew, my riding distance grew without much notice.

Also, things that I consider significant issues now - steep hills, busy intersections, were nothing to me then. I rode at the bottom of a really steep hill, so wherever I went, it meant riding uphill before I got anywhere. But, since I wanted to get places, it wasn't an issue. It was just a hill.
Riding my bike to my friend’s house and seeing just how close it really is by bike, made me feel really silly that I ever drive there. I looked back on all the  I drove to by default, because they seemed just far enough to be able to justify driving. Now they seem silly.

It made me realize how much of life is defined by how we travel it. We have created rules to  how much we drive - having groceries, having your gym bag, needing to pick up the kids, not knowing where you'll be meeting someone. Even something that's so engrained in my psyche like, "women can't walk late at night" seems like an utterly silly rule after doing it for a while (after all, the neighborhoods I'm walking in aren't like the ones I grew up in in Jersey - though then I rode my bike past the Projects and hooting men without a second thought).

And I realized, I like life a lot better when I feel so a part of my surroundings. I have a sense of belonging that leaves us when we take to a car and suddenly can drive wherever we want. The same freedom that gives me such a feeling of belonging on a bike leaves me feeling detached and alone in a car - I can just drive around and be totally isolated the whole time. Walking or riding a bike is the opposite - you're a part of your surroundings, and that changes your perspective.

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