third year pooja gohel

 photo by kelsey dabrowski

photo by kelsey dabrowski

What most people learn to do at the age of five or six, I learned at the age of twenty. Three weeks ago, I learned how to ride a bike.

My lack of skill is not owed to a lack of people willing to teach me, but rather a constant resistance to learning that I still do not understand. While growing up, it was common on weekend mornings for my dad to plead with me to let him teach me how to ride a bike. I recall being initially hesitant, finally giving in, flipping over my handlebars onto concrete, and never trying again. Years later, in high school, my best friend attempted to teach me. The extent of my success was being able to move the bike along with at least one foot on the ground at all times.

My boyfriend was the one who finally got through to me. He went out and bought a $10 bike meant for an 11 year old boy, promised me that the park by my neighborhood was completely empty, and told me he had no doubts that I could do it. There were several things that were different this time. The first was that I genuinely wanted to try. I knew that he had bought this bike and I knew that summer was almost over. Most importantly, I knew that I wasn’t willing to let anyone else in the world watch me learn how to ride a bike.

It took about twenty-five minutes for me to learn. I moved a little bit, then I moved a little more, then I was riding a bike. Although I really did want to learn, the difference this time was him. Rather than telling me what I was doing wrong, he focused on the progress I made. He made a point of showing me, each time, that I had moved further than the last time.

What I learned that day was not that I should never give up or focus on what I have achieved, but rather, that my boyfriend was able to take the time to teach me in a way that I would learn. He knew that if he yelled at me, or didn’t tell me that I was getting better at all, that this experience would likely not end with me riding a bike. Different people need information and feedback delivered in different ways, which not only applies to those who are paid to teach. Recognizing the most effective and often, most considerate way of telling another person how they can improve is a skill that I think the most knowledgeable people have. We don’t remember impersonal professors or people with inhuman intelligence, but rather, those who took the time and patience to share what they know.