^^ Art by the amazing Alessandra Olanow. ^^
Some of my earliest memories are cruising around on my bike. When I was five, my dad took me to the park next to our house where I timidly stumbled to follow the sidewalk lines as I became acquainted with my new lack of training wheels. My bike was purple and pink, with a white seat, and a vinyl basket up front for my various stuffed animals to enjoy a front seat view of the world. The second I hit my stride, going from wobbling like a newborn calf to proper bike legend, I loved the freedom of just being able to take off. As a family, we’d take our bikes on vacation and weekend rides around our city, but when I hit the infamous teenage years, I refused to wear a helmet. According to my peers, it was uncool to keep your cranium safe and there was a rule in my house: No helmet, no bike riding. So I stopped biking, eventually giving away my more adult bike by then, and forgetting more and more how much I loved the freedom of two wheels.
For the last five years in New York City, I had told myself I wasn’t a bike person. I was afraid of the traffic, I didn’t know how it worked here, and where would I store a bike anyways? And yet, every time I’ve ridden a bike around the neighborhood — either through rentals or Citibike — what a high! How had I gotten to the point where I believed I wasn’t a bike person? And what does being a bike person even mean?
Before you ask, I am still pumping myself up to try out bicycle trips around Brooklyn this summer. But as I’m working up my courage, inspired by stories of my friends’ trips to the beach and Red Hook, I’ve come to realize that a huge part of this bike hesitancy has been caused by the fact that I’ve told myself I’m not a bike person. Brain, you sneaky little minx, what else have you been telling me that I’m not!
When it comes to the brain, I am often in awe of her power. But despite her good intentions of protection, she has a tendency to feed me stories that are based on perception rather than reality. It’s often done in the service of warding off heartbreak or a fear of failure, but in the same stroke, it can stop me from sometimes following my curiosity and expanding my world.
It’s a balance, isn’t it? A balance between honoring the things you know don’t serve you and still being open to trying new things or retrying older things that didn’t at first work in the past. I’m very guilty of too often rooting myself in that first category and leaning heavily into what I already know because it’s comfortable. But both are important. It’s crucial to know yourself and honor yourself, and also continue growing. Whew, what a human paradox!
So where are these stories coming from over the years? I’m finding under closer examination (and also in writing this blog post) that some were created based on the belief I needed and wanted to be good at something the first time I tried it — which isn’t the case for 99% of the time. Some were created based off older versions of myself and her preferences, or the fear of trying something I was really excited about and it not working out like I’d imagined in my head. And some were created simply because it’s easier at times, in the craziness of the world, to declare what I am not not than to fully lean in to the unknown and accept myself as a bundle of human contradictions that are constantly changing (what a real Gemini sentiment, am I right?).
Because in reality, the only consistent thing is the fact that as humans we’re always growing and changing. One day you’ve sworn off owning any plants and then a pandemic hits and suddenly you find yourself growing a garden on your balcony. Or you’ve always told yourself you didn’t actually want to be a yoga teacher and then you get a little older and realize “Hey, that might be cool and it’s intimidating but in a way that attracts and leaves me curious! Maybe I should consider that.”
The world is wild and in many cases, we can never say never.
^^ Art by Carissa Potter Carlson. ^^
So for anyone else letting their hearts being guided by more and more curiosity, and putting in the work to give their brain a good scrub and a software update, here are a handful of things I convinced myself, at some point in time, that I was not.
I’m not a plant person. My 10 plants now laugh with me daily over this statement.
I’m not athletic. Now as an adult, I’m realizing more and more the importance of just moving my body and pushing myself to try new activities without the pressure of “being good at them” — especially when it comes to sports and working out.
I’m introverted so I must not be a people person. There are a lot of misconceptions around what it means to be an introvert and throughout my life, it felt like people assumed that being introverted meant that I wanted to be a hermit and never see another human again. On the contrary! I’m fascinated and love people. I love spending time with my loved ones, but in order to really be present in these interactions, I need the balance of time on my own to recharge.
I don’t need emotions and I’m also too emotional. HA! Flash forward to my late 20s and I learned emotions are the strongest guiding force one could possibly harness, and one of the most important things to learn how to understand and trust. Plus, I’ve realized I’m probably 96.5% guided by my emotions daily so ignoring them would be actual nonsense.
I need to be excellent at all the things I pursue. Where is the fun in that and where has this unnecessary pressure come from? I’ve learned over time that this misconception leaves little room for curiosity as I had made the stakes so high for myself that I either had to become a grand master at something instantly or not even give it a try. Yep, that’s a story we don’t need to bring with us in 2020.
I need to be 100% prepared before trying something new. I’m a planner by nature but it comes out more if I’m nervous about something new and unknown. While I do love being prepared, I try not to let a pressure to over prepare stop me from actually doing the thing because I’ve placed so many steps in between where I am now and what I’m hoping to try.
I wasn’t someone who used dating apps. It took a long time for me to work up the courage to try a dating app — and then actually go on a date — but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my current partner who I’m grateful for on the daily.
For years, I told myself I wasn’t good at making friends with girls. I can’t imagine how much my life and community would be limited if I didn’t have my girlfriends to lean on. While I once believed I wasn’t meant to have girl friends, I’ve since learned that female friendships are some of the most powerful relationships possible.
I wasn’t someone who needed therapy. I firmly believe everyone can benefit from therapy. It’s one of the best things I ever did for myself, but even me who was writing about mental health constantly, was so nervous to start therapy because in some ways I was afraid I’d learn something was wrong with me. In those moments, remind yourself, this is fear talking. Therapy is to help you learn and understand yourself better, to heal, to grow, to build your team of supporters, and who couldn’t use more of that?
Cheers to rewriting our own stories my friends because let me tell you, as one human trying to figure it out to another, you are so many beautiful, authentic contradictions. Allow your authentic self more and more space to shine because as my bike is probably saying about now, it’s about damn time Lanning.
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