My training wheels didn’t come off until I was nine


Lynlee Derrick

This picture has no relation to me learning to ride a bike or me struggling now. Instead, because I couldn’t find a picture of my really cool spy bike, I decided to show off my impeccable style as a kid.

I’ve never been one for balance; I have an all-or-nothing mindset, for better or worse.

My inability to ride a bike for far too long is a great testament to this semblance of broken balance. Unknowingly leaning left and right, copying a playful peony field when Mother Earth blows a little too hard, the bike would tilt and fall, and the black concrete would grace my knees in a far too-tight hug.

And I’m not a hugger.

So I stayed with the training wheels, behind and embarrassed but safe and free to feel the windy tilt of my purple spy bike another day. I stayed far from the grimacing embrace the concrete taunted me with for a majority of the languid summer days as the two extra wheels—Lilliputian in size but mighty in meaning—rolled alongside my dragging Sketchers.

Years passed slowly, and I stayed on my sly spy bike; I refused to let the concrete purloin my knees any more. But my knees, the ones I believed I was doing this all for, ironically rubbed against the handles as I pedaled onward, but my child mind, the kind that’s set in its way, remained obtusely oblivious to the contradiction at hand. 

That trusty extra set of wheels was my safety net for my tilting tendencies as I’ve always been one to bend to the will of the whispering wind, back then and even now. It was everything I needed for my balance: concrete and dependable—something my narrow fingers relished as the world felt more real in my petite palms. And it was everything to abate my fears and abide by my timeline.

When my age tallied nine, I nervously removed those training wheels and cut loose my safety net, finally taking power back from the concrete’s taunts as the sky watched from above with blue rays of approval.

Still too tiny, too purple, too clunky—but still so undeniably mine—I set flight, or what felt like a jet speed to my youthful perception of the world, down the crooked sidewalk on my newly two-wheel bike. I pedaled and pedaled and pedaled, still ignoring my knees bumping against the handles, and I felt free

It was everything I needed for my balance: concrete and dependable—something my narrow fingers relished as the world felt more real in my petite palms.”

This semblance of a safety net, the clunky set of additional wheels, did indeed keep me safe; it carefully calmed my fears, protected my knees, shackled me to my boundaries—all the definition of this notion of safety.

But it entrapped me, this obsession with a tangible tether to balance, cutting off my exploration of beyond the concrete’s grasp.

Now, I remember that landmark of my youth—of change and growth and everything between the small moments that felt far too large at nine to the large moments feeling far too small at sixteen—to remind myself that I am safe and balanced, even when I am tilting like those peonies or piloting down the street on a not-so-purple, not-so-spy-themed bike.

I keep those wheels in mind maybe a little too often for a sixteen-year-old girl with better things to do in life. But they are there, and honestly, I am thankful that just the memory has stayed.

Because, once again being honest and unbalanced, I am inching back to that need for a safety net at a time in my life where I no longer have one. I’m at a time where it’s everything at once, and I am expected to do it all.

I spend hours on The Central Trend, editing, reading, writing, plotting, dreaming—hours doing anything. And it’s a job I signed up for. I sat and smiled and signed my name all in acceptance of what Editor in Chief really means.

But I feel so far away from the editor I should be—so unbalanced like falling off my bike once more. Yet this role isn’t a purple, tiny bike but rather a dream of mine finally come true, and it pains me to watch it slip through my fingers.

As it’s slipping, I feel so out of the loop and off my game; I feel like I’m slacking off out of the two editors as I can’t be as present as I wish I could be. My schedule eats away at any time to even breathe and, most often, my time to be the best I can be in room 139, so even in my pseudo home, I don’t feel levelheaded or okay.

So when I think back to all the growth this has caused, even when I feel behind or useless or downright lost in my mess of a senior year, I am just thankful that I’ve grown past training wheels.

I am thankful I’ve pushed past all my fears of failure—pushed past giving up and tossing myself onto the easier bike—because I wouldn’t be here, drowning in homework and college applications but somehow contradictingly content and still not willing to give up.

I’m just glad to be back with my words, my community, my unable-to-be-used green couch seat. 

I found balance once before when the pavement was crooked and rough and summer camp was my biggest fear, so the memory of those wheels reminds me now that I can find it once more now that my biggest oppositions are Time herself and ironically myself.