The phrase goes like this: “It’s like riding a bike — you never forget.” But what if you never learned?
I learned to ride a bike when I was 18. Let me say this in a slightly different way: I learned to bike the year I cast my first ballot for president. As a city rat, a product of New York’s mass-transit system, I never learned the quintessential suburban childhood pastime. And after two admittedly halfhearted efforts during my teens, I accepted this reality: I would never get off training wheels.
I thought hopelessly that, however long I stood on this planet, I would be doing just that: standing. Even though I might travel by plane, train or automobile, I would always be glued to the surface beneath my feet. I told myself I was OK with this as I spread my athletic wings and embraced intramural basketball and baseball in elementary school. But sometime around middle school, I was propelled toward a greater consciousness of politics, and I soon ditched the locker room for the library.
My focus on academics, however, was rewarded when I received a memorably thick package in the mail: an invitation of admission to Andover (Phillips Academy or PA, to our army of alums), a prestigious ?Massachusetts secondary boarding school chartered to educate youth from every quarter. When I arrived, I was a street-smart New Yorker. I didn’t need to bike — or so I thought. Besides coursework, I was happily busy with reportorial projects for our school radio station and newspaper. Journalism became a passion to which I was loyally devoted — an arena in which I promise, to this day, never to accept defeat. This culminated during my senior year, when I launched a political news site that was featured nationally on CNN and in The New York Times
But, behind closed doors, I was not fulfilled. Andover aspires to create sound bodies as well as minds, and I had yet to find an enduring athletic outlet for myself. While I wasn’t daydreaming about bike riding, it remained an exhilarating, if unreachable, possibility. To me, learning to cycle in my young adulthood was on the scale of the impossible. (I was more likely? to win $50,000 in a scratch-off New England Patriots state lottery game than I was to get myself up on two wheels.)