Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
“You’re going the wrong way! Come with us!” someone yelled out. I just sat there, giggling to myself at this huge display of bike riders. Who where they? Where were they going? I had never seen such a thing.
Just a few weeks before, I had gone out and purchased a bike. I had come a long way in my healing from domestic abuse, but I still had a long journey ahead of me. One thing that was missing was a support system. In my mind, my family was my support system. But, as wonderful as they are, they are worlds away. I needed friends, that shared in my interests, but this was proving to be a difficult endeavor. The idea of getting out and meeting people was overwhelming and terribly scary. I lacked the self-confidence required to put myself out there.
But this group, rolling down Las Olas, inspired me to take action. There were hundreds of people, of all ages, taking over my town on bikes. I had to know more. With a little research, I found out that the group was called Critical Mass. And, in addition to this one, large ride, there were several smaller groups that met throughout the week.
I researched diligently until I found one I thought I might be able to manage. It didn’t take long, however, for fear to creep in and rear its ugly head. What if I went and couldn’t keep up? What if no one talked to me? What if I hated it? What if they didn’t like me? My mind raced with all the reasons I should not show up to a group where I didn’t know anyone. But, for the first time, I quieted my thoughts. After all, this is what I had been working towards; breaking free of my fears.
It took me two weeks to build up the courage to show up. I rode my bike there, half excited and half terrified. A huge part of me was so very ready to try something new and make new friends, but the self-doubt almost caused me to turn around and run home where I would be safe. But I didn’t, and going to that ride ended up being one of the best decisions I had made in a very long time. That ride changed my life as I knew it.
Within minutes of arriving, Craig introduced himself. Craig was bubbly and super welcoming. He made me feel at ease within seconds. He asked me if I had ever done the ride and I shared my concerns about not being able to keep up.
“Oh! Don’t worry about that. You’ll be fine. I’ll make sure you don’t get dropped or lost.” he said with a smile.
As people began showing up to the park, Craig made a point of introducing me to each of his friends and telling them I was new. Between Craig, Matt, and Allen, I never feared I would get lost and I was motivated to see the ride through. They rode next to me, encouraged me, and chatted me up, making me feel as if I belonged to this group of people I had never met before. Before the ride was even over, I was encouraged to come again the next week. They even invited me to the local taco hangout for food and beer after the ride, where I met more people.
It was in this group that I met some of my closest, dearest friends. It was in this group that I grew from a casual biker, to a competitor. It was in this group that I gained confidence and open-mindedness. I met individuals from all walks of life, and my inner circle grew exponentially. Our activities spanned from road biking to mountain biking, dinner to beach days, and movies out to house parties. We celebrated birthdays and holidays, we laughed together and cried together, and we still do.
It took pushing past my fear to see an entire world open in front of me. Making this one decision was the catalyst that brought me to an entirely new level of healing over the past couple of years. There are individuals from this group who have been my life raft on more than one occasion. I regained activities that brought me joy, many of which had long been suppressed or forgotten, such as singing, camping, snorkeling, and traveling.
And my return to myself, in large part, came from the many individuals of this group showing me that we are all beautiful and unique individuals. It didn’t matter what I thought of myself, how good I was at something, how I looked, or what I did for a job. They took the, self-inflicted, stress out of being me. I could be myself, learn to love myself, and be loved in return.