Changing Gears

4782CC7D-1188-403E-BF36-8534E7567692.jpgGrowing up, I graduated from training wheels and took myself to swimming lessons on my light blue and white banana-seat bike. I cruised around Eastwood Park on my banana like a boss.

Then one summer when I was 12 or so, it was time to trade in my banana for my very first mountain bike: a hot pink Schwinn with 11 gears and hand brakes.

As I began my maiden ride, I knew I was supposed to keep pedaling as I changed the gears, but the chain would grind and click and make unfamiliar noises as the pedals shifted beneath my feet. Not only that, there were wayyyy too many things I was supposed to be doing with my hands. Left hand, front break. Right hand, rear. How am I supposed to be able to remember which is which, let alone brake and change gears and not constantly be staring down at the handle bars?

It was as if I traded in my confidence along with my banana back at the bike shop and it all felt….clunky.

I wanted my banana back. I wanted to ride again with no hands and I knew just how fast I had to be going on that bike in order to stand on the cross bar. So far, I had nothing less than a death grip on this new bike and I was desperate for comfort…or at least a little less clunkiness.

This past week, I started a new job, which also meant new commute, new people, new culture, new ideas, new clunks.

On Monday, I walked in circles outside the Madison Street Union Station Entrance three times completely confused about where I was supposed to buy a ticket later that day in the midst of the evening rush to get home. I eventually gave up and headed down the street, double and triple checking I was going the right direction, not wanting to be late on my first day.

By Tuesday, I’d figured out that, as with most things in life, there is an app for that, and I had access to all the Metra tickets my little heart desired right there on my phone. #progress.

I was finding my stride by mid-week. Wednesday, I had my new laptop, a badge that gave me access to everywhere I needed to go and enough confidence in the office dress code to wear a new jumpsuit with a blazer. Compliments do an amazing number on confidence, so I was feeling pretty good after the third or fourth one before 10am.

As I was headed to a meeting, I decided to make a quick stop at the bathroom along the way. I hung my blazer on the back of the stall door, wiggled my way out of my outfit and sat down. Jumpsuits make all bathroom activity a little more complicated.

When I stood up to wiggle my way back into my outfit and get on with my day, I was horrified to look down and see the back of my jumpsuit dangling in the toilet water. Yep, you read that right, my friend. Humility also does an amazing number on confidence.

A rookie at both this new job and jumpsuits, I had to think quick. I’ll spare you some of the details here, but safe to say those paper toilet seat covers have great absorbency and can do more than just protect your hiney from toilet seat germs. And yes, you better believe I washed my hands twice before heading to my meeting, now with a little less swagger in my step.

By Thursday, I had a whole week of comical clunkiness under my belt. I tried to swipe my badge in the wrong place, had gotten turned around on Dearborn Avenue, and second-guessed myself every time I boarded the train home, sure I was wrong the line.

It all felt very new and yet in some ways, not new at all. I’ve come to expect the clunks now. Because while I might not be able to anticipate the form they’ll take specifically, I can usually count on them make me laugh, drive me crazy, gross me out and cause me to doubt myself – somehow in the end, they leaving me knowing myself and all that I’m capable of, just a little bit more.

It took some time, but I came to love my new bike. I eventually learned when and how to use the higher and lower gears to my advantage. Just when I was sure the chain was going to fall off and the wheels were going to be next, everything would click into place if I just kept pedaling along.

In the clunkiness, I learned the ins and outs of that hot pink bike, and before I knew it, I was riding again with no hands.



  1. Sounds like an amazing week. Congrats on the new job- I’m sure you will be in your stride in no time. Change is hard, but it is what makes us grow. You are an incredible human.

  2. Fantastic post, Kelli. I appreciate the length to which you go to include a story within a story – props for being such an ingenious writer. I miss pretty much everyone I got to know through Student Impact, so it’s great to be able to read your life updates from your blog. Getting to know you better through your writing is fortunate and powerful when crossing paths in person doesn’t often happen. I hope you and A are as tight as ever through the highs and lows. Until next time, my friend.

  3. Really fun post…. I had no doubt that you would figure it out and be able to do all of it with no hands in the end. 😉

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