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Todd talked with a couple from Australia for a while,
both warning yet encouraging them of the tracks ahead of us.

The couple asked questions and he shared his knowledge of the bike tracks in Rotorua. I didn’t catch a lot of what they were saying – mostly because it was mountain-bike talk, but also because it was mixed together with Australian and New Zealand slang all neatly wrapped up in Australian and New Zealand accents. After chatting with them, catching our breath and having a quick break from the sun, the couple nodded towards the trailhead, ushering us to go ahead.

I looked at the man with uneasy eyes. “Are you sure?” I said, “I’m really slow.”

“That’s okay, sweetheart,” He replied. “You’ve got a great teacher.”

So ahead we went.

Yesterday I went mountain biking for the first time. I paced back and forth on the orchard this morning, when Todd texted me, “Alright, I’m leaving now.” My stomach was full of butterflies and the familiar fog-like fear crept in. I was scared of embarrassing myself, of looking dorky or making a mistake or breaking a bone or not being quick enough. I was too focused on the “what ifs” instead of focusing on being real, and the reality is that I don’t have stories to my name here. No one looks at me and thinks, “Oh, that’s Mandy. She does x and she doesn’t do x.” Here, I’m just a name, a noun with no adjectives. Just one word. Just one body. Just me.

And so I let the butterflies fly and I flew with them. Because we aren’t born with zones around us to keep us “safe” – we aren’t placed in a construction zone with keep out signs and no trespassing boundaries and strategically laid out orange cones. We are born curious. We are born seeing and wondering, not glancing and accepting. We are the construction zone, and we learn to place the cones accordingly. As we build and grow we feel safe in those zones. We build within them.

Maybe the cones you set up around you give you enough space to wander. For me, the risk of what lie outside of the cones, the risk of the fields beyond the no trespassing signs, was greater than the comfort and safety of building within them.

That is why I’m here, and that is why I spent the day with Todd, grinding uphill for ages to “shred” around berms and switchbacks and flail over tree roots.

That is why I chose to fly, too.

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