#ThinkTuesday: The One Option We Forgot In Our #HumanExperience
By Sophia Ebanks “You don’t know how to ride a bike?!”
My cousins and I stared in disbelief at our then seventeen-year-old cousin – the eldest of the pack – as she confessed that she had not achieved a common childhood feat. She shook her head, embarrassment written all over her face as she tried to laugh it off. “Well then, we’ve got to teach you!” we all agreed in unison as we dragged her towards the backyard to get her ready for an impromptu practice. It turned into our collective mission for the day, to finally teach her how to ride a bike. We’d spend the next several hours pushing her slowly down the sidewalk and holding her hand as she painfully exclaimed, “I DON’T WANT TO DIE! IF I COULDN’T DO IT AS A CHILD WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I CAN DO IT NOW!” And in that humorous expression of hysterical fear is wrapped up one of the most damaging pressures of life to which we have all subjected ourselves.
We live our lives expecting to reach only two outcomes down the road: success or failure. We all know that between those two options, one is more valued than the other. That’s why we spend our time categorizing every single experience based on how successful we are and can be in it. Eventually, we move from categorizing our experiences to categorizing ourselves. A person that is considered to be a success is revered, glorified, and loved. A person who is considered to be a failure is shunned, ridiculed, and condemned. Everyone picks up and puts on these identifiers religiously, but the actual end result of this is neither success nor failure. What we end up doing is rejecting the abundance that can be found in human life and experience.
As my cousin learned to ride a bike, she was faced with this thing that so many children have accomplished, making success seem very hard to miss. But under the circumstances, she carried this burdensome fear that she had already passed the opportune time to be successful at it. Subconsciously, this is how we limit ourselves. We limit the extent to which we’re willing to delve into our experiences, happily taking our wins where we can get them and bypassing what more we can feel in our experiences. We create dull lives filled with pressure, fear, and worry at every corner when success is our focal point.
Most of us are dissatisfied with this kind of living, but we keep turning to it. We keep using our idea of success and failure to measure all that we are in this world.
The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t have to be that way. If we crumble up this old paradigm of successes and failures, we can trade it in for lives where the only true outcome is expansion. In expansion, we can detach from all the categories that we’ve used to define our being. We can allow ourselves the chance to see where joy lies in life because we can simply be as we are in the moment without the pressure to define ourselves through it. Life will continue to be life without our judgments, without our chasing after success, or our running from failure. But now, we can give ourselves the opportunity to see more of our authentic selves without the boundaries that limit how we do so. Every experience then becomes a tool that reveals to us more of who we are with each passing moment and all the possibilities of who we could be that lie ahead. We grow to see that neither success nor failure is intrinsic or necessary to define a fulfilling life but that expansion is always there in order for us to create one.
My cousin did eventually learn to ride a bike, but that’s not what we remember most from the experience. We remember the screams as she rolled down the sidewalk uncontrollably, the laughs as she stood up after having fallen off several times, the cheers as she rode down blocks on her own and the cheers even when she rode on her own for a millisecond. We don’t remember the fear because fear slides away once you realize that the joy of the moment cannot change no matter what the end brings. That’s a life created by expansion. We can choose to leave success and failure behind so when we can really dive into our experiences, we’ll open ourselves up to discover so much more than we first thought we could.
Artwork by Travis Bedel
Sophia Ebanks is a Writer. Poet. Photographer. Social Critic. She’s continuously breaking out of the box she sometimes puts herself in. Follow her writing, poetry and photography here.