When I entered my twenties, I felt like a child learning how to ride a bike. Unstable. Anxious. Hesitant.
But you were my training wheels.
You offered unrelenting support. You helped me find my footing, stabilizing me as I navigated the unchartered territory of adulthood. Sometimes I’d fall, but you were always there, dusting off my knees, drying my tears, and encouraging me to get back on the bike.
At times, self-doubt threatened to swallow me whole, but you enveloped me like a blanket of comfort. The more you took care of me, the more I developed a self-identity as “someone who needed to be taken care of. What would I do without you? I’d think to myself.
Our relationship was like a ride around my favorite lake. With the training wheels, we couldn’t go fast, and we couldn’t go far, but we didn’t care. We had each other and that was enough.
After years of circling the lake, thoughts begin to creep in: What other views are we missing? What’s it like to ride fast? As the thoughts would sneak in, I’d shut them out again just as suddenly. Because that’s the thing about training wheels, isn’t it? They can make a person dependent. Complacent. Reliant.
As we continue our slow ride around that lake, we see tracks of our thousands of trips etched in the dirt. The sight of the worn tracks remind us of loving memories but also evoke those pestering thoughts. They’ve grown louder and more frequent, and we can no longer drown them out, so we take off the training wheels.
“But I’m not ready to ride a two-wheel bike on my own yet!” I lament. The training wheels are off, but you promise to hold my bike seat.
“Don’t let go until I’m ready.” You nod your head in solemn promise, but at that moment, you and I both know that I’ll never feel ready. And even if I do, I will never say it.
I gain a little more independence and wobble more than before, but you’re still close by to stabilize me. I continue to fall, but you’re still there, dusting off my knees, drying my tears, and encouraging me to get back on the bike.
OAKLAND (Months 1-3)
Then one day, I’m riding along. I look back, but you’re no longer there. Though moments earlier, I was riding just fine; the shock of your absence throws me off balance. The bike begins to wobble and I lose all control. I crash. Hard.
I’ve fallen thousands of times before, but this time is different. Because for the first time, you’re not there to pick me back up. I lay on the ground because the pain runs more profound this time. Anger fills my body as I lay there alone.
Abandoned. Hurt. Scared.
“What would I do without you?” is replaced with a more accurate statement. One that I’ve never said out loud. One that I hadn’t admitted to myself: I can’t do this without you.
I lay there for a long while. Then one day, something amazing happens. For the first time I dust off my knees, I dry my tears, and I encourage myself to get back on the bike.
I’m terrified because I know I will fall hundreds of more times, and you won’t be there. And I do. And you’re not.
But with each new fall, I add another memory of me soothing myself. Each one I collect like a shiny new badge to add to my steadily growing collection. Now when I fall, instead of looking to you, I look to my cluttered shelf of badges and remember that I can, and I will.
And I do.
OAKLAND (Months 4-5)
I’ve since traveled far and wide alone on this two-wheel bike of mine. I’ve ridden through all sorts of trails and have seen the most breathtaking views I could’ve never imagined back when we were looking at the lake. At my best, I’ve felt the joy of speeding downhill with the wind in my hair. At my worst, I’ve felt the pride of trudging uphill in muddy terrain.
One day I will meet someone new, but he won’t need to be my training wheels. He won’t need to hold my bike seat. I won’t need him at all. It’ll just be nice to have him to ride alongside, to share the journey.
Every beautiful new view I see, I’m reminded of our time at the lake. I’ll forever cherish those long, slow rides. My time with you was a crucial stepping stone to get where I am now: I have myself, and that is enough.
Sometimes I miss it. But that’s the thing about training wheels: once you’ve learned to ride a two-wheel bike, you can’t ever really go back, now can you?
A love for you has been replaced with a love for myself.
I couldn’t have done it without you. And I couldn’t have done it with you. So here I am now.
Confident. Resilient. Independent.
Thank you for holding my bike seat.
Thank you for letting it go.