Moto as learning metaphor

(a quasi-apology for temporarily hating my coding instructors)

I’m 48. I’m two dozen years old. If this is half of my life, we’re talking about living to 96. I have no plans for that, so my life is half way over. Closer to dying than birth, but birth is kind of messy, and being a baby looks boring. As long as I keep trying new things, aging is adventurous and gives me more time to learn.

And to fail.

When I was 46, I took my motorcycle safety foundation (MSF) Basic Rider I course. Me go, girl. Unfortunately, the job that was going to afford me my first motorcycle fell through. I had the M on my license but not moto in my garage. 

On February 14, 2015, ten months after getting my license, which I got learning on a glorified scooter, I bought my first motorcycle: a Honda CB500F. After I bought it, I threw my leg over, fired up the ignition, then looked at my salesperson and said, “Oh, fuck.” This motorcycle was a lot more powerful than the glorified kiddie-scooters we had in class.

Thanks to a friend with a motorcycle trailer and decades of riding under his belt, I got a little tutoring before having it delivered to my house, where I named her P.J. Soles. I ended up with just enough re-learning to get me out of my driveway and around my neighborhood to practice. 

Then I crashed. I was practicing left turns. No big deal in a car; your arms turn the steering wheel this way or that way, and the gas and brake are under your right foot. On a motorcycle, when you turn left, your front brake and throttle are going away from you. It’s an awkward feel, and I wanted to practice it. First left turn. Sweet. Second left turn. Sweet. I GOT THIS! Third left turn? Too much throttle, I’m freaking out, forgetting to engage the clutch, and I speed across the T-intersection, pop the curb and crash into a parked car. Bonk. Damn. Fuck. 

I couldn’t lift my motorcycle. I felt like an impostor. I am forever grateful that the owner just laughed it off and didn’t want me to pay for a wee dent (it really was wee). Convinced that I broke my motorcycle, I walked the half mile home holding back tears. I called AAA and paid too much to have it towed from too close to home. 

For weeks I stared at P.J. I felt that I was neglecting her. I felt that I didn’t deserve a new machine. I felt like a failure. I felt too old to learn something new.

I knew I didn’t have the self-confidence to do this on my own, so I put it out there to strangers for help: Meetup and even OKCupid (“I am not looking for a partner; I’m looking for a riding tutor”). Seek and ye shall find. And find I did. I had the basic knowledge. I knew what do to. I knew that I needed seat time—practice. What I didn’t have until a few months after my crash was a moto-mentor. 

It has been over a year since I popped that curb and bonked the car. I no longer call it a crash. It was really a spectacular drop. I rarely drop it. Not never. Never say that. I have a lot of seat time, but I am still learning. I am comfortable riding at 80mph, but turns at a slow speed still make me nervous. So do turns at speed. So do a lot of things, but I am still riding when I can because there’s only one way to learn to build confidence:

Practice. And failing. And getting back up again to practice. 

So here is to hoping that a year from now, I’ll look back at my clumsy starts to programming and see that I did learn from my mistakes. At least I’m not bruised.

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