Yeah, I was the teenager who fell for the bad boys, wanted to date an older guy with a motorcycle and loved the rev of the motor.
Even with all that, I didn’t get on a motorcycle for the first time until I was 34. If I remember correctly, I begged for a seat belt and a protective bubble—and that we never go over 20 miles per hour again. Okay, so it wasn’t my big wild child moment, but just the fact that I was on the back at all was a big milestone.
These days, I’m a fairly regular rider. It helps to be in love and live with someone who owns a motorcycle and uses it for his main source of transportation.
Even if you never find yourself riding on a motorcycle, there are some life lessons there to be learned.
1. If you decide to follow someone, make sure you trust them. I could never get on the back of his motorcycle if I didn’t trust him to get us both home safe and sound. The first thing he told me on the bike was, “Lean with me on the turns. Don’t pull against me.” I did well with that until we went around a massive curve. We leaned for-freaking-ever. My instincts screamed at me to sit up and go the other way, fearful we might fall. But I trusted him and followed his lead. In any relationship, you won’t always be “in charge,” and it won’t always be equal. When it’s your turn to follow, make sure you trust the other person to lead. If not, what are you even doing there?
2. Lean in when you get nervous. He can always tell when I’m nervous about our speed or the curves ahead because I lean into him for support. In life, you need to know whom you can depend on and lean on when you get nervous, scared or upset. There’s no shame in it. It’s a sign of strength to have the courage to say you’re scared and need help.
3. Don’t look back. On the bike, as a rider, you’re not supposed to move around too much because you don’t want to throw off the balance. When we’re zooming down the highway, I can’t and won’t turn around to look to see where we’ve gone. I keep my eyes straight ahead so I can see what’s coming up on the horizon. Life isn’t much different, really. You shouldn’t forget the past but don’t dwell on it either. Know that you wouldn’t be where you are today if it wasn’t for what was behind you. But also remember, you have to keep moving forward.
4. Few people are exactly as they appear. If you see me riding by, I’m sitting up, looking ahead with my hands placed loosely at his waist (which is much better than the death grip I had when I first began riding). What you don’t see is that every muscle in my body is tense and that my hands (encased in protective gloves) are hot and sweaty. It proves one thing (other than I don’t want to drive but would prefer to be in control): You never know what someone else is going through at first glance. A smile doesn’t always mean happiness. Tears don’t automatically mean depression.
5. You’re not as subtle as you think you are. When I get nervous on the bike, I lean in, right? Well, I also grab hold and press into his stomach with my sweaty palms when I think he needs to slow down. I didn’t realize I was “braking” like that for the first ride or two. When he asked how I felt, I said, “I’m good. Fine! No…really.” Really? Then why was I directing his speed with my hands? Very rarely are we as subtle as we believe ourselves to be, especially when we’re with people we love. These days, it seems easier to own my feelings, which is why I may or may not screech, “Slow down!”
6. Enjoy the ride. This one is hard for me whether I’m on the bike or not. Enjoy. The. Ride. Instead of trying to control every detail, anticipate every move and prevent accidents that may never happen, sometimes we need to just chill. Feel the wind in our face and the sun on our skin. For a moment, don’t worry about the next five minutes and revel in the here and now.
There’s a lot to be learned in the strangest places. The long, winding back roads on the back of a motorcycle are just one in a million. All I know is that sometimes, when I loosen my grip enough to enjoy my surroundings, life opens up in the best possible ways.