Cycling Through the Cycles of Life
Jessie Pan, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s1d2

The hyperactivity coursing through my veins rendered me impervious to any pain as I rushed into my house, carelessly tossing off my bicycle helmet to hunt for the trusty first-aid kit. My patient that day was, unsurprisingly, myself. Stricken with the one-track determination only a six-year-old could possess, I climbed up the shelves of the supply closet, stretching until my fingertips could just barely brush the red canvas at the very top. A tiny hand snatched the bag from its dust-caked surroundings, and, left to my own devices, I took the liberty of tearing open the packets of alcohol swabs and applying them to the large, scratched patches on my knees in a most rudimentary fashion. I rubbed away the mixture of grime and caked blood without a blink, and slapped a comically large band-aid onto each wound before darting back out the front door and onto my bike, once again racing along the small cul-de-sac around my house, until the sky began to fill with a reddish-purple haze.

This would become the first memory I have of riding a bicycle, wherein I do not recall the conventional training wheels, but rather the copious scrapes and bruises on my body from frequently falling off. Yet my childish enthusiasm would always put me right back on the hideous Mickey Mouse colors of my first bike. My bandages and scabs became trophies to me, ones I'd proudly display as my youthful mind filled with notions of toughness. And on the too-long-awaited day of my mother finally lifting the ridiculous ban on breaching ""the border""—the stop sign that marked the end of the street—my ten-year-old self began a new journey. Though initially cautious with my newfound freedom, my feet were soon pumping at the pedals, turning the gears again and again and again, so fast I couldn't believe how far I'd gone when I eventually stopped—past the furthest corners of the suburbs, places I had only since seen in the blocked off space of a car, and into the unfamiliar plazas of my town.

However, it was not until my adolescent years that I truly began to appreciate biking, not just as a cold, structural form of transportation or an outlet for my boundless childhood energy, but rather as an extension of my own aspirations and emotions. Whether it was to make a trip to the store or to just feel the exhilarating breeze along my body, I would often find excuses to be outside on my trusty Schwinn, the rides usually prolonged from quickly falling lost within the temporary euphoria of venturing a particularly grueling path or whizzing down a hillside beside lazily passing cars. And later, when my days became dominated with schoolwork and studying, cycling away on a dirt-caked mountain bike, the gears on the highest settings, became my stress reliever—a momentary escape from the headaches at home. Late nights pouring over the most recent physics chapter or history notes fell in side-by-side with evenings spent in my dusty garage, hands and arms coated in thick black oil as my hands steadily brushed and greased the teeth of the chain.

Now, when I notice the permanently darkened skin on my knees from repeated past wipe-outs, I am reminded of the natural pull I have always had towards this sport, more than just simple recreation or mechanical movements. The rhythmic ups and downs of my feet seem to reflect the endless ups and downs of life, yet the steady sureness of these motions provides me with a sense of control over the cycles, of how to relax and take everything in stride with tenacity that does not waver. And as I speed through the streets with my hair blowing into my eyes and mouth, the feeling of liberation never fails to fill me with an ethereal sensation, of inner equilibrium.
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