When you were a child, what did you enjoy doing? For me, I loved to ride my bike. The summer when I was six, my dad bought me a little pink bike and walked beside me as I pedaled and tried to stay upright. I rode up and down the sidewalk on Washington Avenue in front of my house and then made it around the entire block. Surely, there must have been crashes when I started, but I don’t remember the falls only the thrill of riding.
By the time I was eight, I had outgrown the pink bike, and my dad found me a used bike. We spray painted it purple and bought a purple banana seat for it. I loved that bike and would ride far beyond my block. The purple banana seat bike became my vehicle for freedom. I rode through my small Montana town and down dusty back roads in the countryside. Sometimes my friends and I would bike to the Yellowstone River where we’d skip rocks and wade in the rapid water.
Later, I upgraded to a brown three-speed bike and eventually a ten-speed. I depended on my bikes to take me into the world, and I rode everywhere until I learned to drive. After I had my license, there would be times when I’d ride, but mostly, cycling remained part of my girlish past.
It wasn’t until my early forties when I decided to try cycling. My daughter was heading to college, and I thought finding a new activity would help allay the melancholy of an empty nest. I went to a bike store and bought an entry-level aluminum Trek road bike. It seemed a crazy thing to do—spending $1000 on a bicycle. I didn’t know it at the time, but that expenditure gave me back a missing part of myself.
I rode through my neighborhood, just like I had when I was a girl. Then I took some indoor cycling classes and improved my cycling form. Within a year, I was riding with local cyclists and struggling to keep up. Eventually, I could hang onto the pack.
Because of my love for cycling, I’ve discovered a new world. I’ve met some wonderful people who share my passion for cycling. I’ve seen the countryside in five U.S. states, France and Greece. I’ve even discovered an inner endurance and determination that I didn’t know I had by challenging myself to ride harder and longer than I ever thought I could.
By rediscovering my love for cycling, I integrated long forgotten pieces of myself. The little girl on the banana seat loved to explore and venture into the world. Why had I spent years denying her a bike ride on the back roads? By gathering the discarded fragments of myself I blossomed into the real me instead of the person I thought I should be. I’ve cycled into a whole new life.
Your passion may be cycling, or it may be something else. One way to figure out what makes your heart sing is to look at the things you enjoyed as a child. Try to bring in some of that childhood passion into your life. If you’re like me, you’ll feel more like yourself than you have in a long time.