Standing astride his bicycle at the top of a friend's long, steep, gravel driveway, any thought of the freshly scabbed scrapes and cuts covering his otherwise bare chest, chin, forearms, and knees is distant and unimportant. He loves his bike, and this particular driveway offers a nearly effortless, yet exhilarating ride to the bottom where his friend will surely be waiting to join him on some great adventure.
Years of cars going up and down the road have piled the gravel along the sides and middle leaving bare, hard packed tracks. Horse pastures line both sides, and grass has grown tall between the fence line and edge of the driveway. He places one foot on the pedal, poised to jet down the hill. With no hesitation, he pounces, launching himself into adventure and leaving a small wake of gravel behind him.
An ordinary bicyclist would be satisfied with the momentum offered by the incline alone, but he is no ordinary bicyclist. Pushing hard, he launches into the fresh, summer mountain air. The dirt crunches under the knobby tires and wind whistles his ears. The only thing left is to keep the handlebars pointed in the right direction and enjoy the ride. As so often happens, that moment of pure bliss is soon to be interrupted.
The Bicycle drifts slightly to the left; only slightly but just enough to catch the loose gravel. Losing contact with the hard packed surface, the tires skid hard and straight toward the grass. The long coarse stems, which had appeared so benign swaying in the breeze, become greedy tendrils of death as they intertwine with the spokes of his front tire. Completely bound up, the bike's forward momentum is suddenly and violently brought to a halt.
The boy continues on his trajectory over the top of the handlebars and, after what seems like an eternity of unassisted human flight, comes in for a crash landing. He skids for several feet on his bare chest, short pants clad legs, chin, and forearms. The memory of how he got the fresh scabs in a bicycle crash, involving a ramp made with a two-by-four and a round rock just one day ago, suddenly becomes more important as the gravel strips away both scabs and previously undamaged skin.
As he lies in the gravel, despite a significant amount of pain, the fresh cuts and scrapes don't bring tears as they did the day before. Instead, he has a moment of clarity where he realizes that his own choices have led to the miserable state in which he finds himself. In his young boy's mind, he decides then and there to wear a shirt and pants when he rides his bike. Admittedly, that may not be the great philosophical lesson you were expecting but his decision to take responsibility for his own actions is a major turning point between boyhood and manhood.
Our childhoods are full of lessons just like our little daredevil's ill fated ride. Looking back though, it is not the pain we remember but the lesson it left behind. It's the little experiences of life that add up to who we are as people. We may wish we could erase some errant part of our past but doing so would change the people we are today. If it were possible to go back, we would be better off to take more risk.
Sadly, as adults, our willingness to be bold and take a chance is often all but gone. We look at anyone our age who defies this and wonder why they are irresponsible as take so many chances. Is it they who are really living? Are we meant to reach a point where we live our lives in a bubble of our own creation or are we supposed to be out there on the edge pushing our limits?
There are so many of us with a heart full of dreams and aspirations that are trapped and slowly dying. Our little daredevil is hidden deeply in layers of bubble wrap. What is it that you want to do but are afraid to try? Deep inside, are you a singer, a writer, a public speaker, an entrepreneur, and explorer? You only get one life, one chance to experience everything you can. Take a page from your own little daredevil, be bold and take a risk. Just remember to wear a shirt and long pants!