Funny thing about goals, they are what fears are made of; fear of setting them, fear of setting them too high, or setting them too low, not setting them, forgetting you set them, or not caring that you set them at all. There is the fear of failing to meet them, or maybe we are more afraid of reaching them, fear of measuring “who we are” by them or that others will measure “who we are” by them or worse yet, measure us in comparison to the goals they set for themselves.
I had just gotten my first two wheel bike. I was determined to learn to ride it, although my mother insisted I use the training wheels that came with it. Of course, my dad couldn’t buy me a bike that was the appropriate size for a small child. He had to buy me a standard size bike because after all, I would “grow” into it. Never mind that I couldn’t reach the ground with my feet if I was sitting squarely on the seat. That was a minor detail and one that could be easily overcome….with training wheels, per my mother. So I rode up and down the country gravel roads propped precariously on the white vinyl saddle while my tippy toes danced on the spinning pedals, barely touching them at the bottom of the stroke.
Like fathers are prone to be, he was right, I did grow into the bike and the second summer was much more promising. I could reach the pedals, even on the down stroke. While I couldn’t quite yet reach the ground from the seat, I could step down onto the pedals and after breaking to almost a complete stop, hop to my feet on the gravel, scratching across the surface of the dusty road, leaving delightful skid marks with my heals, and scattering the rocks like frightened chickens.
My mother was delighted with the announcement, but skeptical. “I want my training wheels off!” I insisted. Of course I had no way of knowing why my mother was reluctant, yet she knew it was time and there would be no stopping me. So off they came. She paraded with me and my bike proudly down the driveway toward the road for my maiden voyage.
I was talking to my co-workers today and I was telling them about advice my mother had given me. I was sure that she had given me three pieces of advice, that’s it, three. They laughed as I started to name them. 1) Never trust anyone who won’t say “shit” 2) Never mow the lawn because once your husband finds out you can do it, you’ll do it the rest of your life and 3)…3)…I couldn’t remember the third one, but I remembered tonight when I got home. 3) Don’t look down when you ride your bike because in life, you will always go where you look.
She ran along side me; gently holding the seat for as long as she could, but feeling quite confident and leggy I gained speed and started to pull away from her. Now, I being the stubborn person that I am, (even at that tender age) and having been given such sage advice decided to test her theory. Never, ever believe anything you’re told. That was my motto. But as mothers are prone to be, she was also right. I began to look down at the pedals, and beyond them to the road passing underneath, my front wheel started to wobble and I couldn’t seem to maintain my balance. I was slowing down and the more I slowed, the more unsteady I became, and the gravel started to call up to me mockingly, “You are going to fall. You are going to faaa..aaaall.”
The handle bars crushed against my rib cage and all I saw was dust, rocks and stars. There was a horrible pain in my knee from little rocks embedded in the deep cuts. The palm of my hand was scraped and bleeding too. I wasn’t that badly hurt, only my pride. I crawled out from under the bike and pulled myself upright, and it along with. The thought of turning around to see my mother standing there with that “I told you so” look was most unpleasant, although I knew I had it coming. She wasn’t there though. I was alone on the road and thankful she had left me to succeed or fail on my own. I’m sure she knew from the moment she let go of the seat that I would look down. She knew I would fall and had walked back up to the house to spare me any further embarrassment.
So it was a simple goal….don’t look down. There is one thing for sure, I never looked down again, I never looked back and I never fell again. I kept my eyes on the road and where I wanted to go, and if I lost my balance, I just kept peddling. Perhaps the simplest goals take us the farthest.
What would we do without goals and the fear, pain and accomplishment that goes with them?