My feet were a blur to anyone who was watching. I was pedaling faster than a speeding bullet, flying down the road at a speed dangerous even for a NASCAR driver. With my helmet resting snugly on my sweaty 9-year-old head I was invincible, unstoppable, capable of anything. My hair was plastered to my forehead and my cheeks flushed pink with both the exertion and the excitement of it all. I could do it. My parents were wrong, and I could prove it. The pedals of my purple “Flower Power” bike scraped the ground as I leaned into the turn like a seasoned professional, despite the fact that just a week before my training wheels and I were inseparable. This was it-time to show everyone what I could do.
And I fell. I fell hard. One minute I was Lance Armstrong, and the next I was on the ground, my bike laying next to me.
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Red blood dripped from my hands, my elbows, and my knees. I watched as it pooled into a small puddle in the crevices of the rough gravel road beneath me. Tears welled up in my eyes, though it was more from the embarrassment than from the pain. I hadn’t proved anyone wrong but myself. Once again my parents were right; I couldn’t do it.
I was crushed. I just couldn’t believe that I had failed. I never failed. Even back then I set high expectations for myself. I believed that I could do anything I wanted, and that I could do it better than anyone else. That’s just the way things were; everything came easily to me, whether it was turning a perfect cartwheel or bringing home a 100 on my spelling test. I was 9-years old, and I was on top of the world, until I fell from the sparkly silver seat of that flower adorned bike.
My embarrassment and frustration quickly turned to anger. Oh, I was mad alright, but not so much at myself as at my parents. They had told me that I couldn’t handle that hill. They didn’t believe in me. I thought they had willed me to fall. After all, there was no way my spill was my own fault, through my eyes at least. I just didn’t mess up like that.
I pouted for days, nursing both my sore limbs and my shattered self-confidence. I watched as my friends effortlessly rode their two-wheelers back and forth, up and down the hills of the campground. Both my mother and father encouraged me to ride with them, to practice on the smaller hills before I gave the big one another go. I angrily refused. Who were they to tell me try the hill one more time when they had known I couldn’t do it in the first place? I wasn’t going to risk falling again.
Eight years later, I am happy to report that I’ve recovered from that fall, both mentally and physically. I’m still the ambitious girl I was back then. I still strive to be the best at whatever I do. I still have high expectations for myself, and set lofty goals, but no longer do I think I will accomplish these goals simply by breathing. I’ve finally learned the lesson my parents were trying to teach the pretentious 9-year-old tomboy I once was. They wanted me to realize that I need to work towards my goals. That not everything is going to be easy the first time around, but that I can’t give up, no matter how far or how hard I fall.
I realize that my parents weren’t rooting against me, as I’d believed back then. It’s not that they thought that I couldn’t handle that hill. They knew with a little practice I could fly down it like a pro. Looking back, I am ashamed at how I blew off their words of encouragement and refused to try again. I thought I was playing it safe. If I don’t get back on the bike, I thought, I can’t fall off again. I didn’t realize that playing it safe will get you nowhere.
Since then, I’ve attempted many challenges that ended in failure, but I never backed away like I did when I was 9. Instead, I find it within myself to work even harder to reach my goal. As a class of 2011 officer as well as vice-president of my school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, I’ve had to continuously push my ideas of how to improve the school on resistant teachers. As a reporter for my school newspaper, I’ve shared my opinion on controversial issues such as immigration hoping to raise awareness for the injustices I see everyday. As a runner, I’ve had to pick myself up after spirit-crushing races and put in countless miles, pushups, and crunches so that I can win my next race. As a student, I’ve had to put in innumerable hours of studying to earn high grades in my toughest classes.
As the years have passed, I’ve come to see that I thrive in adversity. Ever since I was that 9-year old tomboy on the purple bike I couldn’t back down to a good dare. I am always looking for a chance to not only prove myself, but to improve myself, and to improve the world around me. I am no longer afraid to take risks to reach my goals. I am no longer afraid to get back on the bike and, most importantly, I am no longer afraid to fall.