Easy Risks and Embracing Change

Whenever someone tries to tell me–Oh, it’s as easy as riding a bike–I have to explain that, for me, riding a bike is actually pretty difficult.

When I was a kid, I fell off my bike into a pile of glass. It was Thanksgiving, and my brother and I were both dressed in fancy clothes to go to dinner at our aunt’s house. It was a clear day and we had some time before we had to get into the car, so we asked our dad if we could ride around the school yard by our house. I rode in big loops and made a fast turn on some sand and hit the pavement. I hadn’t noticed there were shards of glass on the ground until they were in my knee. My mom had to pluck the pieces out of my skin with a pair of tweezers while I cried, perched on the kitchen counter.

It was a long time before I got back on a bike after that.

I tell people that I’m a white-knuckle rider. Both hands on the handlebars. Quick to use the brake. That I’d only ride a bike if I had a football helmet. But the truth is, I just don’t ride a bike. I take the train or drive my car or walk, keeping both feet on the floor.

Both feet on the floor isn’t generally my MO. Especially when it comes to work, I’d rather take a calculated risk for something I believe in, than sit at a safe job and wonder what else I could be doing.

I learned this from my parents. Not only did they take a risk by starting their own business–a kung fu school–they didn’t follow the status quo in their field. Martial arts is steeped in tradition, but they never stopped coming up with new ideas–from not having a rank system at their school, to producing home exercise videos, to developing workouts that never existed before. My dad took acting classes and wrote a screenplay. My mom designed home exercise equipment.

I can’t give my parents all the credit. Because they learned this from their parents. Both of my grandmother’s made their children’s education their top priority, and my grandparents never discouraged my parents from following their dreams. Although Nai Nai did suggest to my dad that he go to college and get his degree, just to have something to fall back on. He went to art school. Not the most practical choice. He ended up dropping out.

My mother’s father was a professional golfer. My grandmother worked in the pro shop. Pennies were pinched in the winter, when the golf course was covered in snow and he couldn’t teach or play in tournaments. But my grandmother had a plush green carpet installed in the living room so he could practice his putts. But even teaching golf, arguably the most conservative sport before polo, my grandfather was an innovator. He was one of the first pros to start using film in his lessons, recording his students strokes and playing them back to demonstrate how to refine their technique.

Our family home has been a safe haven of new ideas, where four generations of my family have returned after work to figure out what can be improved upon, what can be tried tomorrow.

That is changing.

My parents are taking a new risk. The house is soon to be sold, and they are moving to Kansas City, MO. When I mention this to people, they are stunned. But when you look at it in the context of their entire lives, their careers, it’s just an extension of what they’ve been doing all along; trial and error, seeing what works, coming up with something new, different. Then trying that out, too.

I can’t say that I was thrilled about this change. When they first made this decision last Fall, I was devastated. The thought of not being able to return to our house or kung fu school or meet my parents for lunch or run into them in the street was bigger than just feeling like the rug being pulled out from under me. It was more like getting struck by an asteroid.

I didn’t know how to deal with these feelings, and did what I always do to cope.

I wrote.

Regular readers of this blog and followers on social media have seen my hustle: getting work published on the Huffington Post and Bitch Flicks and co-writing Ladies In Space. I also submitted work to contests that got rejected. But mostly I wrote my book.

Somewhere In Between is hard to categorize. It’s a short novel, I’d say it falls under ‘New Adult.’ It’s speculative, has elements of the paranormal or the surreal. It’s a love story. But mostly, it’s about coping with change.

The characters, Rom and Magnolia, two unlikely friends, find comfort in each other when their lives are on the cusp of change. They talk about anything and everything except what they actually need to deal with: applying to college, and then after college, how to start their lives as adults. They hide away from their problems on the other side of a door they find one day after school. The place on the other side is never the same. The world they live in is constantly changing, and they are doing everything they can to keep things the same.

I’m not saying that I am resisting change. This book has been my best route to learn how to embrace change, to look at the terrifying unknown and learn to accept it. What I’ve learned–from writing this book, from having to let go of my idea of what defines my city, and my family–is when you have nothing to lose, you’re not as afraid to take a risk, because you have everything to gain.

So I wrote this book, and will be publishing it to share with readers by the end of the summer.

And I’ve been helping my parents pack our house, sorting through 100 years of trial and error.

And on the 4th of July, I got back on a bike, zipping through the city at midnight, under green summer leaves and leftover fireworks.