A year ago, I had no idea how to ride a motorcycle. In fact, I couldn’t honestly say that I even remembered how to ride a bicycle. Nine months ago, I thought it’d take me all of the warm weather the year would have to offer for me to learn enough riding skills to be comfortable by myself, on real streets. Six months ago, I was nearly positive that my first riding season would be limited to short, local trips. By three months ago, I’d acquired my own motorcycle and was getting my wheels under me for mostly guided rides. And then last week, I walked into a dealership and rode out on my new-to-me second motorcycle, taking a local highway home with only a friend escorting behind me. While I’d ridden a Honda Grom before at my Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse, it was in a controlled environment and almost half a year ago. This time, I started downhill out of the parking lot – not quite able to reach the ground with my feet – and almost immediately into a U-turn to get going in the right direction. I navigated heavy winds, a healthy amount of traffic, lots of gear shifting up to top speed for the bike (a blazing 50-55 with headwind!) and down to a stop for the many lights, and even a car suddenly pulling out in front of me.
There’s a lesson in there, and it’s not that Annette already has a healthy motorcycle addiction (let’s be honest, that’s not news). It’s that you don’t need to make huge investments to become familiar with and competent in a new skill, let alone enjoy it. I touched on this a few days ago, but it bears repeating because one of the biggest barriers to starting is this idea that there won’t be any payoff until you’ve spent a lot of time and other resources. It’s intimidating because why get started if it’ll take you forever to get there?
I certainly tried to ride as much as I could this year, but my day job and travel have limited my opportunities, not to mention the availability of my riding mentors. I also simply didn’t have the confidence to go out by myself. Every time I went out, though, I remembered a little bit more from the time before, and became a little bit more capable. Simply showing up and stretching myself just a tiny bit each outing was enough to build the skills I needed to take my Grom home. Really, sometimes there wasn’t even stretching so much as just reminding myself that I knew what I had learned earlier. Much like my Brazilian jiu-jitsu journey, it was all about small investments over a long period of time. Each practice may not seem like much, but your skill will add up over time even if they seem insignificant. It’s true that more focused and more regular training will take you further, faster, but that doesn’t devalue what you can get out of short, occasional, and casual sessions.
For the same reason that’s true, starting at all is worthwhile. It’s a bit of a cliche but a journey of a thousand steps really does require you to make that first move. You won’t be an instant expert, and that’s okay. A beginner is still more than a never-ever when it comes to knowledge and ability. Before you start, you might know in theory how to do a thing or how a thing works, but you need those practical attempts in order to really get it. Your understanding may be imperfect as you try to work it out, but it will be better than it would be if you only read or watched or thought about the thing – all of which will be more useful to you after you’ve gotten hands-on even just a tiny bit, by the way. Besides, while novice is a necessary stage before reaching expertise, you don’t have to move beyond there. It’s perfectly okay to be a perpetual beginner. You don’t need to be more than that to have the basics, and it’s completely up to you if you want to seek more.
The journey, should you choose to embark on it, is very much the destination anyway. Maybe it will take you forever to get there, wherever there is. Maybe it will, one day, take lots of effort and money and attention and struggle if you add it all up. But each individual segment of the path only needs to take as much as you can give it. Some days, it may be everything you have and then some, and that may be quite a lot. Others, it may be all that you can give up and it’s not very much at all. Or you may have plenty in you but decide to devote only a fraction of it to this particular interest because you understand that the expectation to give every new thing your all is unreasonable and unnecessary for your life at that moment. You are allowed to enjoy meandering along the route, to enjoy those small victories as you pick them up one by one, and to enjoy being happy with where you’re at right then.
It’s enough, you’re enough, even if you can’t dive wholesale into a new pursuit. You can still have fun with the process of learning what you can, when you can, and it will still be more than you knew before. And that? That makes getting over the hump to take the first step totally worth it. I know, because while I may never race my bike at a track day or become comfortable enough to be a daily motorcycle commuter or ride down the legendary Tail of the Dragon, I still got the joy of racing my Grom home and having the skill to operate an unfamiliar vehicle to boot. Now what will you take on, knowing that you only have to take a little bite to start?