I remember the first time I got a set of wheels. I stood at about three feet tall. My dark brown hair was cut short and styled more curly than wavy. My round face was tanned from summer days at the local pool. And my hazel eyes lit up from simple joys as quickly as they turned serious whenever I became a shy and observant four year old. One of my first joys was receiving a red trainer bike. I remember thinking that it was magical! It had a bright, white seat for my little tush (ah, those were the days)! A white, plastic basket sat between the handle bars for me to cart around all of my Strawberry Shortcake dolls. And it was accessorized with beautiful shiny ribbons that hung from both the right and left side of each bike handle. After some practice rounds on my beloved red trainer bike, my small legs learned to pedal as fast as they could in the direction of my playmate’s house down the street. When I turned five, it was time to turn my four-wheeled trainer bike it into a bicycle. The training wheels came off and I made the leap from “little girl” to “big girl.” My dad would hold onto the back side of my bicycle seat while I would wobble around, trying to keep my balance. And then one day, my dad let go. I didn’t notice that I was riding solo at first. But then I looked over my shoulder and saw that my dad was far behind me, waving his arms, saying, “Go Andrea, go!” I was free! I was riding down the sidewalk all by myself! The hand that once held me steady was now cheering me on as I road independently down the bumpy concrete path of my childhood days. It was thrilling! And I smiled joyfully as the summer air breezed across my innocent face.
Eventually, I outgrew my shiny red bike and upgraded to a dark green bike with a black banana seat. It wasn’t very “girly” as far as bicycles go, but it got me up and down the street to my friend’s house to play with our Barbie dolls on the weekends. It was the perfect bike to get me from point A to point B quickly. And boy, was that banana seat comfortable! After a few years of traveling on my green bike, it was time to graduate to a “real” bike. I chose a 10 speed at the local bike shop, in metallic blue with black accents. I rode that bike everywhere! To my cousin’s house... to the local Convenient store for candy... to meet my friends for lunch at our favorite pizza restaurant... and yes, I even did “ride-by’s” passed the house of a boy I had a crush on during my grade school years. His name was Lane Tollett and I thought he was the cutest boy in school. He never rode his bike passed my house. But I guess that’s another story for another day. My bikes, my wheels, they gave me freedom to travel anywhere that I wanted to go. My bicycles gave me independence. It was a wonderful gift to give a young girl who had a lot of learning and living to do.
When I turned 16, I got a car. And for the next 18 years, I never rode a bike again.
During my bike-less years, I did things that a young person should experience. I went on dates. I had my first real boyfriend. I graduated from high school and then from college. I got my dream job. I traveled the world. I made my own money. I lost a job. I fell in love. I had my first heartbreak. I made lifelong friends. And I lost some friends too. I experienced great accomplishments. And I had major setbacks. Those setbacks became challenging. So challenging, in fact, that the young girl who once rode around confident and happy on her bicycle now felt insecure and struggled with her own sadness. But even during my darkest hours, there was still a strong voice of support saying, “Go Andrea, go!” Although, I was no longer the young innocent girl learning to ride a bike for the first time. Many things changed over the years. My appearance. My wisdom. My emotions. My confidence. My goals. And my dreams. But one thing was still constant. My father’s love and desire to cheer me on as I worked to move forward in life. And so, with the sounds of his cheers, I decided to go back to the basics. It was time to ride a bike again.
This time, the bike I chose was stationary. That word, stationary, seemed somewhat symbolic of my life at the time. But while the bike I rode didn’t physically go anywhere, the motivation I received on that bike projected me forward. I discovered a place where a group of people gather to ride and find motivation. It was a cycle studio near my hometown called Psycle™. And it became a community of friends for me over time. Yes, the ride was physically exhausting. At the end of a 60 minute class, my clothes were drenched in my own sweat. My legs felt heavy and numb. My body was doing things that I didn’t think were possible for a non-athlete. But it wasn’t just the physical workout that motivated me to religiously attend this class. It was the mental workout. The ride was often emotional for me as I would listen to lyrics by artists like Eminem, Christina Aguilera and Sam Smith. Some of the music motivated me to not quit the game of life when others tried to break me down. And sometimes I would push through heavy pedal strokes and cry as I listened to lyrics that spoke to my soul during the pain of a heartbreak. The music, the pedals, the wheels, the bike... they were helping me heal when I was struggling. And somewhere in the walls of that room, I could hear a voice saying, “Go Andrea, go!” So I would pedal faster, push harder and challenge my body and mind to race to my own finish line. It was a finish line that greeted me with happiness, confidence, a healthy spirit and FREEDOM! Freedom to be the woman I desired. Freedom from the pains that once muted my spirit and quieted my voice. Freedom to race into life and embrace simple joys and great accomplishments. My new found freedom on the bike was empowering! I rediscovered the spirit of that little girl who conquered the road on her red bicycle. And I healed the woman who became flawed and broken. One pedal stroke at a time.
Freedom On Wheels Playlist: