Biking out of the Box

The bus!  Wait! Stop!
Typical!  The one day I’m late, the bus comes on time…
Fellow toastmasters, honourable judges,
Those of you who catch the bus will know that
our Auckland service is not impeccably reliable. 
The buses run late, sometimes not at all. 
They don’t go where you want, when you want.
Since 1992, I’ve been catching the bus down Dominion Rd to University and work.
I’ve been passively sitting in that big yellow box.
Comfortably cruising in the stagecoach rut.
I looked through the window.  I saw those lunatic cyclists
but in Auckland?  Not for me:
the hills were too steep
the cars too crazy
it was too hard, too, scary, too dangerous
my fear held me back
But the last years, the fares have gone up and up
last November, I went to the dairy to charge up my bit of plastic for the month. It cost $99!
Over $1000 per year.
The financial damage was too much!
It was time for a change.
It was time to bike out of that box.
To ride out of that rut.
In our garage my sister left an old bike
– cobweb handlebars, rusty chains, pancake wheels
I got it out.  Dusted it off, greased the chains, pumped up the tires.
Went to a bike shop
Bought lights and reflective clothing so the cars couldn’t miss me
– oops – would miss me.
I’m not very mechanical but I got my dad’s wrenches and went to it.
Straightened the front wheel, raised the seat for my longer legs, adjusted the back brake.
It was ready to go.
But, problem: I’d never ridden a bike in Auckland.  I’m not much of a cyclist.
the Auckland traffic filled me with trepidation.
So for my first test ride, a cunning plan:
I’d go to church in town on Sunday morning – no traffic!
a quick prayer, and I was off
From my front door, to the city, 30 minutes –
the same as the bus, and I didn’t have to wait!
Biking is so much better than bussing.
It’s free.  I have spent less on accessories than one month on the bus
I am free to go where I want, when I want
I can explore new routes on the way – the daily ride becomes an adventure!
It’s good exercise: my thighs were sore, but they’re getting stronger.
I’ve got new skills and self-confidence yes, I can bike Auckland. 
Yes, I can do basic bike repairs.
7 o’clock in the morning.
Cruising gracefully downhill.  The sun just rising, the morning star fading above, the wind in my face. 
The bike I’ve fixed humming smoothly beneath me. 
The real world around me instead of that TV screen window.
It’s so good to be out of that box.
I think all of us tend to settle into comfortable ruts,
Slip into fixed habits
Grow to fear change
So I’ve got a personal policy.
Every year I should do one or two new things that push outside my comfort zone – that extend my experience.
I’m a very shy person.
A few years ago I dreaded public speaking.
So – like many of you -I joined toastmasters to overcome that fear and build my communication skills.
I never thought I could be here competing at interclub level!
This year, I’m learning to bike in Auckland.
Last weekend, I did Bike-the-Bays.
Hey, maybe I could do a triathlon one day!
So my question to you fellow toastmasters:
what claustrophobic box have you been in for too long?
What blinkered rut are you stuck in?
Albert Einstein said: life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
What stops you moving?  What keeps you locked in that box?
It is fear.
Fear gives you a choice.
You can play it safe
You can let your fear control you.
You can run from risk
But there is another way.
it may take courage.
it may take faith
it may take all you’ve got – but I know you can do it.
Fellow toastmasters,
don’t crawl through life in quiet desperation
Don’t let your fear beat you into trembling submission.
Throw off your fear.
Break off your chains
Burst from your box
Seize the day!  Grab that risk
Look your fear in the face, and watch your fear flee.
Ride out of your rut.          
Bike out of your box.