I still remember learning to ride a bike.
My first bike was tiny, bright fluorescent pink with white tires and training wheels that were permanently attached. I outgrew it fast and it was passed down to my younger brother who told me that it was not pink, rather faded red and also a motorcycle.
It was neither.
For my sixth birthday, I chose a pink and purple BMX with white tires. My dad swapped them out for black within the month after far too many punctures. The white rubber was more expensive, and of poorer quality, he told me, and I was glad. White tires did not match the picture of the ideal bicycle I had in my head.
Dad took the training wheels off soon after my birthday. What was the point of a bigger bike if I was just going to ride it like a baby, he said.
Where I lived, the roads were wide and empty so I would wobble my way down the half of my street that was sealed, while dad held the back of the seat to stop me from tipping over.
Eventually, he would let go, pushing me and my bike forward as he did. I would squeeze my eyes shut and yell that I couldn’t balance before dropping to the gravel.
You can’t learn to ride without grazing your knees a few times, dad said.
When finally I was good enough to stay upright unassisted, I began pedalling my way up and down the streets, using the white lines in the centre of the road to keep my path straight. My mother was horrified when I proudly explained this tactic to her, and probably with good reason, given her six-year-old had decided that wandering in the exact middle of the road was the safest of all her travelling options.
Standing at my sink this morning, a wave of anxiety washed across my body.
I experience this often.
When you have anxiety it is sometimes easier to drown it out in any healthy or unhealthy way you can. This doesn’t always work so well, but sometimes it does.
Until it doesn’t anymore, and a tidal wave of (often irrational) terror sweeps across your reality.
While driving, out of nowhere comes the overwhelming realisation that I am in control of this vehicle but within moments I could not be and oh god there are people and other cars and I think I am going too fast and is my foot on the break or the accelerator and suddenly I have forgotten how to breathe.
This happened to me again at the bathroom sink. My mouth was full of toothpaste.
It dribbled down my chin and for a moment I forgot that I was in control of my own body.
Lean over, spit into the sink.
At least, it’s mine in the sense that every fortnight money disappears from my bank account in the form of rent.
The personal magnitude of this slammed into me.
This is my home now. I pay the bills, clean, leave my keys on the kitchen bench after work (and no one can tell me not to).
I get myself to doctors appointments, stand in line at the chemist, push a trolley through Woolworths. I even have a drawer specifically for reusable shopping bags.
After a childhood of trying to be a grown-up, I am suddenly faced with the reality of adulthood, and I’ve never felt younger.
These are just small pieces in a sea of growing up that I am somehow half swimming in.
Independence hurts a whole heap, but I finally feel a little bit closer to being free.
My knees might be grazed, but I’ve taken off my training wheels.
(And, one day I will have almost forgotten the terror of wobbling along by myself.)
all my love,