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30/05/2020 The Communication Science magazine

What cycling has taught me about entering adulthood

After only a few months, Kamilé found striking similarities between adulthood and the classic form of Dutch travelling: cycling!


When 12-year-old-me captioned her new Facebook profile picture with a so-called profound quote (spoiler alert: it’s the kind wine moms use to decorate their walls with), she certainly didn’t expect to have it thrown back at her 7 years later. And yet, ironically enough, that exact quote was called to my mind on a gloomy autumn evening during one of my bike rides home. “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” I remembered myself using this Albert Einstein’s quote and realized the man had a point.

Being from a country where most people see bikes as a fun summer activity rather than a daily way of transportation, introducing cycling to my routine was quite a change. As if it wasn’t changing enough already – after all, as a first-year university student, I was entering adulthood and getting used to living on my own. Apparently, that is not only about cooking and doing laundry for yourself. Entering adulthood is also about the increased frequency of self-doubt, anxiety and reflecting on one’s self-destructive behaviour. 

Now, you might be wondering, how exactly is that related to bikes? Well, one thing I can tell you is that 30-minute-long bike rides provide a lot of time to think, and such prolonged reflections often result in peculiar epiphanies. Seeing the analogy between the unwritten rules of cycling and the unwritten rules of entering adulthood was one of them.

Seeing the analogy between the unwritten rules of cycling and the unwritten rules of entering adulthood was one of them

Stay in your lane

“Just keep right,” my friend advised me before my first bike ride home from university. Of course, I managed to forget that, but encountering an old man’s angry look after we hardly fit on the bike lane was a delightful reminder. Cyclists have their own place in this traffic – whether it’s the right side of the road or a red bike lane, failing to stay in it might have some unpleasant consequences. As I’ve noticed, it’s similar to adulthood – if you try to structure your life using someone else’s model, you’re likely to end up crashing and hurting yourself. 

Here’s the thing: all that should matter to us is our own growth, in our own space, at our own pace. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but then again, who said adulting is easy? So, the first lesson that cycling taught me was to be my own angry old man who gets me back to my lane when needed. To put it simply: both when cycling and when adulting, mind your own business. 

Communicate

From my observations, “communication is key” is a phrase that fits all sorts of situations. After almost getting into a bike accident several times due to me or some other cyclist forgetting to signal a turn, I can confirm that communication is indeed the key in cycling-related matters too. Needless to say, it is crucial in adulting as well – after all, relationship accidents might hurt a little bit more than a bruised leg.

Needless to say, it is crucial in adulting as well – after all, relationship accidents might hurt a little bit more than a bruised leg

As it turns out, adulthood is not only about being able to buy alcohol and vote either. It is more about emotional maturity, which means it might be time to start seeing such actions as saying “I’m fine” when you’re not as potentially self-destructive behaviour. And also about learning to put your pride aside and apologize if you did something wrong. And also about calling your mom more often because she misses you. What I learned is that entering adulthood can be hard enough – no need to overcomplicate it by isolating yourself. Talking does help. And so does signaling when you’re making a turn.

Enjoy the ride

Being a hardly sporty person, introducing 20 kilometres of cycling into my routine was not instantly enjoyable, to say the least. The first few rides were indeed quite torturous – I would arrive sweaty, blotchy and out of breath, cursing myself for making this exhausting decision. However, it got a tiny bit easier with each ride. Eventually, I even started making detours through parks and tree alleys, which would make my voyages longer, yet way more enjoyable.

I keep reminding myself to make those detours when navigating adulthood as well. It is work in progress – I often get so preoccupied with various adulting matters that I forget how many opportunities are in my hands, but at least I’m trying. After all, I (hopefully) have 3 years of university in front of me, which also means 3 years of adventures, mistakes, life lessons and new connections. I’m slowly realizing that adulting is not only about being responsible – it is also about going easy on yourself sometimes. So take the scenic route on your next ride. Buy yourself that scented candle if you had a hard day. And don’t forget to have fun.

So, for every cycling and adulthood newbie out there, have this in mind if the city’s crazy traffic (both literal and figurative) is getting to you. Find your own route, cycle at your own pace and don’t forget to catch your breath once in a while.

Oh, and keep an eye out for tram rails – they’re a real fun killer.

 

Cover: Flo Maderebner

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