I’m a girl full of fears. I usually don’t come across that way- I’ve practiced my “brave” face for almost my whole life now. At first, the fears were simple, expected. I had a fear of the dark, but what kid didn’t? The time that I found out my dad threw out my training wheels, I was terrified. Usually they don’t even call that a fear, they simple call it “self-preservation.” After all, once the training wheels come off, isn’t the bike pretty unstable? Don’t you fall over a few times? Skin a few knees before you figure it out? So isn’t that fear to be expected?
Then I grew up. I still have that fear of the dark, but my affinity towards training wheels has (for the most part) disappeared. I adopted different fears, and honestly, most of them make sense. A fear of being kidnapped. What 18-year-old girl has never had that fear cross her mind when walking home alone or when a big van drives by? A fear of cancer. You see, every time I say this one, people try to explain the chances of cancer in order to “lessen” my fears. But, you see, I’ve done my research. I know that I have approximately a 20-30% chance of being diagnosed with cancer in my life. That’s more than twice the average risk, so I count that as a legitimate fear. Sometimes these fears get in the way. I don’t really like walking on my own thanks to the kidnapping one. Thanks to my cancer risk, almost every time I get sick, I have a fleeting thought of “Oh God- this is it. I’m going to die,” which seems rather stupid when usually it’s just a cold.
But these fears are tiny molecules when it comes to my biggest fear. Love. Seems silly, right? Love is fun and joyful and exhilarating and mind-blowing and spontaneous! Why be afraid? Well, you see, I’m not good with the unexpected or the unknown. I like thing to be well defined and I like knowing what to expect at all times. Love means falling. Now here’s where my love of training wheels comes back in. When people say love is like riding a bike, they’re definitely right, but in more ways than most people realize. We all started off on small bikes with training wheels as kids. They’re usually pink and sparkly if you’re that stereotypical 5 year old girl. Love is kind of the same. It starts in our family, and that’s amazing and great and totally necessary for children. It’s safe. You can’t really crash a bike with training wheels- especially not one with pink sparkles! Same with your family (when you’re little). They’re always going to love you. And it’s the pretty, neat, makes sense kind of love. And then the training wheels come off, but you still have the little, pink, sparkly bike. This is when you’re growing up a little. Love is still pretty neat for the most part, but you occasionally fall off the bike. You learn that your family is nice, but they aren’t perfect, so you fight. But even though the skinned knees hurt, they never hurt bad enough to prevent you from getting back on your adorable pink, sparkly bike.
And then at some point along the long road that is growing up, you get a “big kid bike.” And it seems so cool. Trust me, I know. It seems like the best thing in the entire world. And believe me, it’s cool. But it’s also really scary. It seems like you can conquer the world the first time you experience it. But then you fall off. My God, it hurts to fall off a big kid bike much more than it does to fall of the pretty sparkly pink bikes of your youth. You see, the big kid bike is love too. But the big kid bike isn’t safe, young, neat love from your family. The big kid bike is the butterflies in your stomach, stars in your eyes, life isn’t the same without him kind of love. It’s the staying up late waiting for him to text/call/Facebook you love. It’s the “I didn’t know I could feel this alive” love. It’s the “how does he singlehandedly fulfill everything I’m looking for in a person” love.
But here’s the thing – this love isn’t perfect either. Because that’s the thing about love. Love itself will never be perfect, because humans aren’t perfect. We’ll never be able to perfectly and unselfishly love all the time. We can’t avoid falling off the bike. And like I said before, falling off the big kid bike hurts. A lot. Because not only are humans not perfect, but they’re all broken. We’re all broken. We’re all carrying around the baggage of our lives. We’re all carrying around our scars from falling off the bike before. Some of us avoid the big kid bike completely, because it’s just too scary, and we’ve been hurt too many times. But that’s the beautiful thing about love. It’s not supposed to be perfect, and maybe there’s a reason.
Because there’s something beautiful about scarred knees and scarred hearts. There’s something beautiful in the fact that total surrender is completely and utterly terrifying, every single time. There’s something extraordinary in the ability to trust someone else with your entire heart. There’s something amazing in putting your trust in that big kid bike, no matter how much it wobbles or how often you fall off and get hurt. There’s something to be said for getting back on that bike each time, and pushing ahead, more determined and stronger and more committed to the very purpose of it. Love. There’s something about riding that bike. It feels like freedom and joy and a sense of wonder all at once, of how something that can hurt you so badly can also make you come alive. But, you see, the big kid bike terrifies me. I’m scared of getting on. I’m not sure how much more my knees can take. I’ve jumped on that bike a few times now, and none of them have ended well. So that’s where I am now. Staring at the bike, realizing that I’m missing out by not riding it. Trying to get over that fear. Putting on a “brave” face once again. Realizing that living means conquering fears and riding with no training wheels.