This month, sometime mid-June, I rolled over the one year mark of being car free. It wasn’t a mark on the road or even a wad of gum that stuck to my tire and made a sticking sound every time my wheel did a rotation. It wasn’t marked by fanfare either and nobody gave me a medal–indeed not very many people knew. It just happened one day, tagged in a post about car free living, that I realized I stopped using my car last June. My car is still sitting in my driveway, a giant piece of unsightly metal that will be removed this coming Saturday. I’m selling it. I used to call it the boat because it’s a big granny car.
I thought that in honor of this very quiet passing–the passing of the year–I would sum-up what I’ve learned.
1. Be thankful. Give thanks. Every day I ride down the hill from my house I’m thankful for this earth, for not having to pedal much right out of the gate and for the changing temperatures–according to season–of the air on my skin (though it is more difficult to be thankful for 8 degree air than 70 degree air).
2. Notice stuff. Biking has put me on the ground during my commutes…by that I mean I’m out in the world. This spring the cardinals seemed so very red and I smelled all the various blossoms as each took a turn at stanking up the earth–one smelled like cat pea if I remember correctly.
3. Look at problems as opportunities. A flat tire is nothing more than a chance for me to work on my poor mechanical skills…which could use some practice.
4. Don’t drive distracted. For instance, if a NIN song comes on at nine in the morning and you don’t want to hear Head Like a Hole at that time, STOP THE BIKE. Never roll down a hill while trying to change a song! That’s stupid! Pull over.
5. Heed good advice. Never pretend to know everything. We have so much we can learn from each other.
6. Accept help. For instance, if someone offers to put the tire they just sold you on your bike, maybe say yes. If someone offers to show you how to use clipless pedals, try not to roll your eyes so much during the lesson.
7. Give folks a chance. I had to meet a whole bunch of new people this year and I really don’t like new people. I met a whole bunch of people I liked though. It opened up a new world for me.
8. You can inspire people with something as small as a bicycle. It doesn’t take lots of money or even a fancy bike. Sometimes all it takes is a 1983 Schwinn, which is red, with white highlights.
9. Life can change at any moment–with every breath we take. Our days are not promised to us like we think they are. I’ve learned that from some close calls this year, but in truth, that beautiful, bittersweet humanity is always staring us in the face. Live like you mean it.