I’m pushing 30 and feel like a kid again.
The last time I rode my bike on a busy street, I was 19 years old. Don’t get me wrong, I ride my bike occasionally, but on bike paths. I was with my boyfriend at the time and we had been biking around this bike trail on the bay. I told him I didn’t want to ride on the street and he said okay. When the bike trail had stopped, he just kept riding on the street back to his house. He was a block or two ahead of me and never looked back. I was so angry and out of shape, not a good combination. The slight inclines I had driven many times but never noticed made my thighs burn and my heart race. People were honking and speeding past me as I struggled to stay within the 2 foot wide bike lane. When we finally got back to his house he poured me a big glass of water and I pounded it, without looking or speaking to him. I was so angry. I felt like a kid again, struggling to keep up with the bigger kids.
The last time I rode my bike on a busy street before that, I was 14. My family and I were camping with my friend’s family near Santa Cruz. They went every year and had this tradition where they would ride their bikes to a good bagel place. “The best bagels ever.” My friend warned me that it was easy until the last hill, which was big and steep. I was last in the pack, as usual. We hadn’t eaten anything yet, so I was starving. I had my bike in the lowest gear slowly moving my legs around and around, cars whizzing past me on this windy road lined with redwoods. It would have been faster if I was walking. I finally got there a good 10 minutes after everyone else. I felt like I was going to faint. I had to sit down, I was starting to lose my vision. If I had anything in my stomach I would’ve thrown up. The bagels were okay, though I could barely eat. Stupid fucking bagels.
The last time I went skiing, I was 15. I was with my cousins, uncle, and brother. What was worse, my cousin’s blonde beautiful friend was there, an expert skier. It was probably my fourth or fifth time skiing. First, I missed the ski lift. So my cousin and I rode tandem, in our own ski lifts. My lift pass for some reason had not been attached to my jacket yet. Struggling with my ski poles and trying to put down the guard so I wouldn’t fall to my death, the lift pass fluttered down to the ground, as innocently as a leaf falling to the ground in autumn. My uncle had to go back with me to get a new one. The guy just gave us one, because who would make up such an embarrassing story just for a free lift pass? I went on the bunny slope a few times and then my cousin urged me to go on an easy slope with them, a blue square or something. The hill was so steep, especially for my pizza-only technique. My cousins and brother whizzed past me, while my uncle stayed with me and had to probably excruciatingly witness me stumble down this hill. I felt guilty; he was a really good skier and I was preventing him from actually skiing. From then on I stayed on the bunny hill. My last time on the bunny hill, I was going too fast, pizza style. I ran into a kid and kept going towards the parking lot. Haven’t skied since.
The last time I was at an ice-skating rink, I was 10 years old at my friend’s birthday party. She was an expert ice skater who would get up at 5am everyday and ice skate, then skate more after school. Everyone else could skate a little, I couldn’t skate at all. I also looked like I was dressed to go on an Arctic expedition. My mom dressed me in a huge winter jacket with orange, purple, and green neon colors on it. Everyone else was wearing jeans and light sweaters. I was hugging the sides the whole time, letting go for seconds at a time. Everyone else was whizzing past me, giggling in groups. My friend’s older cousin was there, a hockey player. He started skating full speed right at me, and stopped at the last second with an expert skid. Ice sprayed on me and I gasped. He scoffed at me and said “ha, loser.” I lumbered on, fighting tears for the rest of the party. My friend came by to say hi and could see I was upset. “What’s wrong?” she said. “Nothing, I just have something in my eye.” She persisted but I couldn’t tell her what happened. Nobody likes a snitch. I had learned that from a previous incident. I won’t go into that here, don’t worry.
We hung out with my cousins a lot growing up. They were all boys and older. We would play basketball in my cousin’s backyard and pick teams. Not super fair as our age differences went from 6 – 13 years old. There were only two of us left to be picked by the team captains, my brother, 6 and me, 9. Though we were 3 years apart, we were the same height and Jon was stronger. My cousin looked at us two, a tough choice. “I’ll take Jon,” he said. My other cousin saw my disappointment and lifted me up really high, “That means I get Seana!” with enthusiasm. For how many banana slugs I have witnessed him murder, he is a really great guy.
I was bad at basically all physical activities as a kid. On weekends my dad would often take us kids biking or to play basketball or baseball. It was fun and I enjoyed it, but I was definitely bad at it. I could make a basket from the foul line and throw a baseball pretty straight, but I was still bad. I was extremely short and skinny growing up (I am neither of those now). Add that with a heart murmur from birth and I wasn’t quite naturally made for sports. I did dance though, and was one of the better dancers in class. I didn’t know if me having a heart murmur actually affected my physical activity or if it was just something I could use as an excuse. Later, when I was 20 or so, I started getting heart palpitations during exercise, which made it harder to push myself. On a routine visit with the cardiologist, he said “Your heart is fine, you can do any exercise you want. You might not be an olympic athlete, but your heart is basically normal.” Seeing as I was already 20, I really hadn’t planned on a career as an olympic athlete. But when he said that, I was disappointed. We are made to believe we can do anything if we really put our minds to it. But here I was just told I physically could not do something because of my defected heart. I fantasized about being an olympic athlete. Being the fastest man in the world, muscles bulging, sweat everywhere. A six pack, my own gatorade commercial. What would it feel like to be good at something physical?
Yesterday, my friend said we should go to Golden Gardens and assured me there was a bike path. Sure, I said, that would be fun. It was the first nice day of year, 70 degrees and sunny. In the first 2 minutes I knew it was a mistake. The almost invisible incline made my thighs burn. I have a fitness heart rate monitor that counts my calories. I try not to go over 170 beats per minute. I was already 175. Being hung over doesn’t help. We joked around, and she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever gone this slow.” We got a beer and some food. I warned, “this will only make me go slower.” We still had a mile or so to get to the bike path. A mile of riding on the street. Cars and buses whizzed past me and there was no bike lane. “Get off the sidewalk,” my friend said. “You have a right to be in the lane. You have to be comfortable with riding in the street if you are going to ride in Seattle.” I replied, “then I won’t ride in Seattle.” We go down this windy road, lined with evergreens. It’s not hard, because it’s downhill. But it’s steep and I’m going fast, avoiding potholes, cars whizzing past us. I hate this, I thought. I feel like a kid again, slowing my friend down and embarrassing myself at the same time. There was no real bike path on the beach. When we get to the second location I say, “I’m never going biking with you again,” half joking. I don’t talk much because I am holding back tears. My friend feels bad and guilty which makes me feel worse. “I always push people too much,” she says. I don’t say anything but it’s not her, it’s me. She miscalculated the disparity between her strength and my weakness. As an adult, I had forgotten this feeling. There isn’t much emphasis on physical activity as there was when growing up. For some reason, as a child, it defines you more.
I feel like a kid again. I forgot how much being a kid sucks.