I am a Fish – How Failure Makes Me Better

I am a fish.  Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Now, I admit, like many folks, I believed that work meant you could overcome most things.  I am 40 years of age.  Telling me, I could not do something lit a fuse inside me; I would do it if only to prove you wrong.

A big part of why I am such a good tutor is that I will keep trying to find the way that works for someone.  I have spent years reading up about mindset and attitude.  I believed that if you had the right mindset, didn’t give up, and gave your all, you could and would achieve. I took that attitude into my work. 

Then this last week happened. I tried the hardest thing I have ever come across. And I sucked at it. I tried to ride a motorcycle.  At first, my instructor Marcin (from BMW, Dalkeith), my husband Ian (who was also doing his CBT) and I laughed, and humour got me through the repeated topples.  Then I got frustrated, though I quickly got out of that one as a frustrated mind cannot learn.  Then I got curious.  You see, I enjoyed riding the motorbike.  But still, I could not stay upright.

The worst moment was while standing still, straddling the bike and talking to my instructor, Marcin, I fell over.  I just toppled to the side for no reason.  That led to some proper belly laughing.  But I got back up, Marcin picked the bike up, and I tried again. 

Every time I hit the deck, I got right on up.

I have wanted a bike for more than twenty years. I wanted to do this. I believed I could do this.  I just needed to keep trying.

My technical skills progressed, but my balance did not.  You can only progress to learning properly and get out of the yard if you are upright.  Unfortunately, I was not spending enough time upright.

I didn’t want to let anyone down.  From the tutor kids who have the courage to try, try and try again to my husband.  We had dreamed of packing the camper, towing the bikes to the off-beaten track, and exploring.  I had planned with friends to go out on the bike with them.  I had even thought of using it for work, attending schools to provide outdoor learning advice and dreaming about the easy parking a motorcycle would afford (school carparks can be a nightmare!)  And my poor instructor who had the patience of a saint (and the strength of ten bears with how often he had to scoop that bike back up off the ground!).

I kept pushing on, falling off and getting right back on again. 

Marcin was fantastic.  He reassured me we could take as long as was required.  There was no pressure, and I loved riding – even if my legs were turning attractive shades of blue and purple!  He was also a great investigator, trying to determine where the trouble was coming from.  It wasn’t my seating position; that was good.  I had stopped tensing up and relaxed.  I could steer pretty well.  My clutch control was nice.  I was enjoying it.  All the basic building blocks were there.  Still, I could not stay upright.

Our breakthrough came when I missed something he said.  You see, I have a deep dark secret that I have not been comfortable sharing with people; only my immediate family and a couple of friends knew.  I have moderate hearing loss in both ears.  A private test at the tail end of last year showed I need hearing aids for both ears, and I am currently waiting for my NHS referral to come through.  So, missing what was said led me to explain to Marcin that I had hearing loss.  He was fantastic and took away much of my worry about telling people.  As he said, knowing meant he could support me more.  He was brilliant. 

I had not appreciated that hearing loss due to damage in the ear is closely linked to balance issues. I have many of the hallmarks of damage, from tinnitus to general clumsiness; I am quick to feel motion sickness and of course, the hearing loss itself.  So it could be that the damage that we know is there is causing balance issues. It is all the same areas, after all.

So, knowing there may be a physical reason why I cannot stay upright, I gave up (for now).  While I wait for my hospital referral, there isn’t a lot I can do.  But, with my husband having passed his CBT and hopefully getting his full licence by the end of next week, I am looking forward to riding pillion soon and maybe, one day, if the hospital can help, getting back and learning to ride for myself!

And as for the tutor kids, I felt I was letting them down.  In fact, I felt like a total hypocrite. I encourage them to push on despite difficulties and find strategies that work, but I have come to a dead end myself.  But this failure will make me a better tutor. It will be good for them to hear that failure can be ok.  Yeah, right now, it hurts, and I am upset.  But there is always a way forward; it just might be via a side route and that is a lesson worth learning! 

And I have my route.  This is not the end. Once I see the hospital, we will know which road I will take, either as a rider or a passenger, and I will still be able to enjoy bikes.  It may not be in the way I want.   But if the hospital can fix it, I will return to BMW Dalkeith and get more lessons from Marcin!

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