I've spent a lot of time lately nesting, after moving, putting things away, throwing things out, giving stuff away. I've been inspecting everything I own, deciding whether I want to move it next time. I already have everything I really need. Home has become a place to crash in between doing what I have to do (work), and what I want to do (ride).
Riding has become, literally, the vehicle of personal freedom. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life, I feel free. Personal freedom used to be no more than a dream, a pinpoint of light at the top of a deep well. Learning to ride a motorcycle has opened up my life to possibilities I never imagined when I was in that dark place.
All the clichés about living in America—the thrill of the open road, life is a highway, live like you want to live—are clichés because they're true. Every musician, every songwriter, every singer, every author has something to say about how great it is to live in a place where you can do or be anything you want. Unfortunately, that doesn't apply to women who live with control freaks and have small children under their care.
Taking charge of my own life—that is to say, taking charge of my circumstances (who can honestly say she's really in charge of her own life?)—started long ago with one action: a phone call, a decision, a conversation with myself. To get from here to there in one's life, no matter what type of journey it is, takes a lifetime of small actions, one after the other, step by step.
Riding a motorcycle is also a series of small steps, but those few actions take me to places and people and scenes of such incredible beauty and variety and spirit that I am amazed and humbled at being able to participate. The feeling of being in control, of the bike, of the journey, of the destination, of the decision of when or whether to come home is something special, too.
Having something in common with other riders gives me confidence and makes me feel like a part of something bigger and stronger than myself, even if the others are people I don't know or don't even want to know. I know where they're coming from, and I appreciate their independence, their kinship with each other, and even the strength of the bonds that exclude me from being a part.
The riders that do include me as being a member of the circle, whether formally or informally, are best friends forever, or just by a casual nod at the gas station, make me feel like I'm connected to a secret worldwide society. We're all warriors; we're all soldiers; we're all friends. We all want to live like we want to live.
Having nothing between myself and the pavement but the wind is a feeling that can't be accurately described to someone who doesn't like to ride. The protection of home and car from the elements is just an illusion, anyway. Life is a highway. We're all moving as fast as we can from one disaster to the next. How could you not want to enjoy the times in between as fully as you can? Bracing yourself for the next disaster is a waste of precious time. Being safe, secure, and comfortable is a great way to spend the night, but it can suck all the vitality out of your days.
The years I spent longing for safety, security, comfort, and control have made me realize, finally, especially since I discovered the joys of riding, that I wasted a lot of time worrying about crap.
Carol Watkins lives in Knoxville's Cedar Bluff area in a condo with a one-car garage—make that one-motorcycle garage. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.