I can still feel myself perched atop that old red bike. That beautiful gift, worn away by old age and stored inside the cold room along with the numerous other unknown contents of my basement, sits within the cluttered “workout room”. As I stare at my old bicycle, I can barely make out the word “Schwinn” and notice that it is hidden beneath a thick cloud of dust. I examine the sturdy metal frame that is lined with tiny dents and numerous scratches and can still imagine my last ride on that old bike. Years ago, my father taught me how to climb onto a bike without the fear of falling off. I remember being fully aware of how the mini training wheels needed to balance the bike frame. I was fully aware of its heavy frame. I was fully aware of how my legs could get tangled between the spinning tires and revolving bike chain.
Most importantly, I was aware of my father’s presence. I knew that fear was pointless because my dad was always there to protect me. When I fell, over and over again, my father was always there to comfort me.
He’d help me up from the ground with a warm pat on the back. “Try again,” he’d always tell me. Day after day we practiced for hours, yet he never gave up on me. After countless attempts, numerous packages of bandaids and the bitter tears, I finally learned how to ride a bike without being afraid to fall off. I had learned from my father, from the old bike, from the painful falls and warm pats on the back how to take the necessary risks in order to grasp success.
I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but I was sure that it would be a new journey that would be full of discovery. I noticed the thin, wire spokes turning as I continuously press intensely on the dirt stained pedals. Each time I pushed the pedals, I got a glimpse of my blank shadow as I absorbed the pleasant scenery and smelt the pleasing aroma of freshly cut grass. I noticed this shadowy reflection of me glide across the cracked asphalt as I pedaled harder. It is a mere silhouette of me. I can’t seem to escape nor hide from this dark figure. This mysterious shadow is a reflection that I can never escape. It’s always with me. My shadow can never abandon me. Even when I brutally crash into an obstacle along the way or am tossed off the torn vinyl seat of my vibrant colored bike, it never leaves me. It never shows me those painful scars and numerous bandages that line the surface of my skin.
The bike once belonged to my neighbor when he was a kid and still contains the dents from unanticipated crashes, the rips and tears from tightly gripping the handle bars and the dark smudges of dirt that remain caked between the pedals and its sturdy frame. No one ever likes to venture down into the basement to retrieve those stored away items and lost treasures that have been buried under mountains of unorganized chaos over the years. Yet, for the past four years I have found myself venturing down into the depths of my basement just to climb onto the torn vinyl seat and begin a new journey. For the past four years I have found myself climbing over mountains of junk in order to reach that old bike, just to remember my past journeys atop its damaged frame, just to remind myself of why I should begin a new adventure, just to think of those beautiful moments with my dad. To say that my father had the largest impact on my life would be an understatement.
My father’s guidance over the years has been the driving force behind my motivation and desire to pursue a career in Bioengineering. Throughout my childhood, my father taught me that although each and every failure has consequences it is still okay to fail at times. He taught me that no one is perfect and that when our vices show, it only means that we are human. When my brothers and I would forget to complete our household tasks my father would explain to us the importance of responsibility. He taught us to always be accountable for our own actions, even the bad ones. My dad’s hard work and dedication to my brothers and I, is the infrastructure that supports my desires to contribute to the world, globally. My father’s teachings revealed to me the need to be a holistic individual. I decided that becoming a Bioengineer would allow me to contribute to others even when my life fades away and my discoveries would save numerous lives along the way.
I’ve made numerous mistakes along my journey that constantly knocked me down and at times threatened to stop the overall progression of my bike. Yet, reflecting on such failures I can still feel a strong desire to climb back onto that old bike just to keep following my own path towards excellence. When I was six years old, my brothers and I were once playing catch with a foam apple. Although my parents would always tell us not to play inside of the house, we continuously dared to disobey their requests by enjoying the simple pleasures of a game of catch. As our game intensified and the foam apple twirled through the air in our living room, it encountered our parents wedding candle that was sitting gracefully in the center of our wooden dining table. The candle tipped and crashed to the floor, shattering the beautiful creme colored wax into countless fragments that made up a pile of rubble. Although my brothers and I plotted to conceal what was left of the wedding candle, my parents immediately found out. When we all
were interrogated for our roles in the death of this beautiful candle, this wedding candle that represented the union between my parents and the love that has built this wonderful family, I couldn’t bear the look of disappointment that enveloped my father’s face. Unable to hold it in, I turned and whispered to my two brothers, “Should we tell the truth?” Despite joining in on the occasional bursts of laughter that erupts amongst my brothers, I am still reminded of the effect of my own actions on my father’s emotions. I am continually reminded of how connected my father was to me in so many loving ways. From that moment on I was afraid to see that look on my father’s face. I made a promise to carry myself in a way that would honor my family even when they weren’t around. That stern, shocked expression that no child wants to see across their parents face has been etched into my memories ever since the candle incident.
When I was younger, school was never easy for me. I did not know how to be a scholarly student and rarely desired to impact the academic success of others. Each year I would encounter loads of school work and struggle to complete the work because of a lack of focus. Even the class scholar would simply refuse to assist me. Each day, my father would tell me, “Turrel, do the best that you can. Nothing in life is easy.” I learned from him. He taught me that achieving my dreams wouldn’t be easy. He was my map. He was the map that I would carry along with me on all of my journeys, as I pedaled through the hardships of failure and the triumphs of success. He was the map that guided me along a successful path, the map that ensured that I never stopped progressing. Part of using that map, allowed me to count on my own roots. My father always had a way of influencing me and teaching me valuable lessons. He would tell stories of his childhood in Trinidad. Each of his stories would reveal new insights that I still hold close to my heart. His stories stressed the value of generosity to me. His stories taught me to be proud of who I am. His stories also taught me how to overcome my insecurities, inhabitations and lack of confidence. I had learned to stop second guessing myself and questioning my own intentions. After encouraging words from my father, I could proudly look at my own reflection in the mirror without hesitation and as I ride that bike I am no longer afraid of
my own shadow. If only I could influence others, like my dad has influenced me, they would see why I pedal so hard. They would see why I climb those vertical slopes, even when no one is cheering for me. They will see why I am no longer scared of falling off that old Schwinn bike, nor being lost behind my own shadow. Lance Armstrong once explained that “if you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.”
All this, I learned from my father’s teachings. Now, every time that I climb onto that torn vinyl seat of my red colored bike, and start to pedal, I never know what adventures I will encounter along the way. I never know whether I will meet an enormous obstacle or be tossed violently onto the uneven pavement. Yet, I do know that my shadow will always be with me and that I have my father’s virtues to guide me. Is that not the perfect reason to buckle my helmet straps, grab my map, climb onto my bike and start pedaling?
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