The year when I was nine, there was a nationwide craze for unicycle riding among children. Suddenly, all my school friends started riding a unicycle, and it became difficult to even play with my friends after school without having one since that was what they played with most of the times.
A few months into the unicycle craze at school, I pleaded with my mother to buy me one, but as always, she told me to wait. She thought that it was just one of those meaningless trends that would pass in no time.
But the craze continued, involving more and more people around me. Even my two childhood best friends got their own unicycles, and I couldn’t wait anymore. I begged my mother once again, this time, with tears.
“Your birthday is coming soon,” said my mother. “I’ll buy one for you as your birthday present. How about that?”
When my birthday finally arrived, my parents took me to the Toys R Us near our house to find me a new unicycle. At the time, there was whole aisle dedicated to unicycles for children.
“What a selection!” My mother exclaimed. “Which one do you want?”
I already knew which one to pick. I wanted exactly the same model as my two best friends’ unicycles. Unfortunately, the pink colour I wanted was out of stock, but I got the red one.
As soon as I got back home, I tried my brand-new unicycle. I fell. It was much harder to balance myself on the single wheel than I had thought. But I was so happy to have my own unicycle that I was determined to practice it until I could ride it well and join my friends after school.
From that day on, my dedicated unicycle practice started. Every day, as soon as the school was over, I ran back home to practice. It was a rather lonely journey since by that time all my friends were experienced unicycle riders. I was the only beginner.
Whenever I found a crowd of my schoolfriends who were riding unicycles, I asked them to teach me how to ride it. But they were usually so busy having fun themselves that they didn’t have time to deal with a beginner like myself.
Back then, we girls were keen on collecting cute stickers. So, I would tell my friends,
“If you teach me this, you can take the cutest sticker you like from my collection!”
This strategy worked to some extent. Some of my friends agreed to teach me, and they did for a few minutes before they got distracted by the main activity of the play group and forgot about me.
In the end, I accepted that I had to somehow learn it myself.
I started looking for helpful tools I could use to balance myself while riding my unicycle. I first tried riding my unicycle around a parked car, balancing myself against the car surface. This was a good way to get used to the feeling of pedaling on the unicycle, but it didn’t teach me the right posture since I always had to lean on one side as I moved along the car surface.
Then I found a perfect practice spot in the park behind my house. There was a small wooden shelter in the park supported by six pillars. The distance between the adjacent pillars was not too short, but not too far either. When I spread my arms, I could almost reach both pillars at the same time.
The practice I came up with was to start from one pillar, then pedal my unicycle once to get to the next one. Since the distance was not too much, there was little risk of falling while travelling from one pillar to the other, but I could still experience the one second of not having any support while pedaling my unicycle.
I repeated this practice every day that summer for hours until the dusk came. During that period, I walked back from school alone and played with nobody after school. I was obsessed with my unicycle practice. I really wanted to be able to ride it like others.
After days of intense practice, I finally got the hang of it. One day, I was able to balance myself on the wheel without falling! I repeated it again and again between the two pillars to make sure that I really got it.
That evening, I burst into the kitchen and told my mother the breaking news.
“Mom, I got it, I finally got it!” I said breathlessly. “You must come out and see it!”
My mother stopped the supper preparation and came outside to see my progress.
Once on the street, I asked my mother to hold my hand. She started walking and I started pedaling my unicycle. Hand in hand, we slowly sped up. And when we were about to reach the end of our block, my mother released her hand. I continued riding. Without falling. Without fear. I felt a wind on my face.
“Look at you!” I heard my mother’s voice behind me. “You’re riding it!”
At the end of our block, I stopped and got off my unicycle. Then I ran back to my mother, jumping with excitement.
“I did it!” I shouted as I ran with my unicycle. “I finally did it! I can ride my unicycle!”
That was the day I rode my unicycle for the first time. After that, I started playing with my schoolfriends again – with my unicycle. My solo practice camp was over.
I don’t know about my friends, but decades later, I still remember that year of unicycle craze. Because of the way I struggled through the practice, the whole experience became special and unforgettable.