The old adage is that one never forgets how to ride a bike. I would add that, once you feel that empowerment of moving forward by your own impetus, you always crave it.
One of the things that I love about Jiab is her endless energy and effort to keep things moving forward. I’m happy to take life as it comes and make the best of whatever direction we go, so Jiab’s perpetually focused, “that’s our next hill to climb,” approach is a perfect compliment to mine.
Most people would call her a “doer,” but I think of her more as a “mover,” like a creature that must keep its momentum going forward lest it lose all ability to move.
I learned the source of her drive six months into our marriage, when I first traveled to her hometown of Bangkok. Then it made sense.
If you’ve never been to Bangkok, it is a congested city of over eight million people who all seem to have the same goal, trying to move. The streets are always jammed with cars, while folks without a car are constantly jumping onto buses, taxis, freelance taxis (usually a pickup truck hauling groups in the back), tuk tuks, or motorbikes.
There is no time of day without traffic, and getting anywhere takes effort and time. Bikes and mopeds weave in and out of endless queues of cars, people fight for lanes (or disregard them entirely), and fender benders aren’t worth stopping for.
In Dallas, we would say every place takes twenty minutes to get there, whether across town or next door! In Bangkok, it takes, on average, at least an hour.
This was the world Jiab grew up in, and as I saw everyone in Bangkok relentlessly pursuing the same goal of getting someplace, I came to understand my wife.
If you don’t keep moving, you don’t make it.
It’s not just environment that instilled in Jiab the drive to, well, drive. Her mother, well into her 80s, remains a moving whirlwind that never stops. She used to pick up young Jiab from school on a moped, and if Jiab didn’t hop on it fast enough when her mom pulled up, mom was gone and Jiab was left back shouting for her to stop.
I’m sure the feeling that one needed to be in motion to get things done is what propelled Jiab to risk moving to the other side of the world, to the US, when only 21, and then climb her way up the corporate ladder. A paternalistic hierarchy that impedes women? Assumptions and outright discrimination because of her racial or cultural differences, even her accent? Bangkok streets trained her to take on those obstacles, either by deft maze running, or, when necessary, smashing through them!
A couple of years ago, we got the notion to save money by getting licenses to drive mopeds. We didn’t know we were practicing then to be European; we just liked the idea of riding to and from the tennis court with a cool breeze and getting 80 miles to the gallon.
Unfortunately, during the training, Jiab struggled as she kept applying the gas and brakes simultaneously. She never could stop her hand from making the bike go-go-go, even when practising for stopping. I kept on with my scootering around town (it helps that my sense of dignity is stored inside me as “last in, first out”). Jiab ended up buying a used bicycle.
I still see Jiab’s love of motion today, though it is perhaps more esoteric. When we vacationed with our sons, Jiab and I had a natural division of labor. Jiab would research and find the best airline to get us someplace, the best place to stay, and all the other logistics to make the vacation do-able. Once there, I would look up and plan (or find by walking around) all the fun family activities, such as weird museums, haunted restaurants, or whatever was the nearby “world’s largest…” I got to be the fun parent who introduced the entertainment, but it was always Jiab who made it possible.
If I was the cruise ship program director on deck with a clipboard, Jiab was the mechanic keeping the propellers turning.
As we head into our third life, it seems like a great team shouldn’t change their winning game plan too much. She is the engine (and engineer) of our relocation and resettlement. It’s a continuation of her life motion.
Yet, as I see all the pedaling it takes to get us to our dream retirement, I feel the need to not just sit on the bike and ring the bell. I look for active ways I can help work the gears and wheels without disrupting Jiab’s method. I’m not a planner, especially when it comes to online bookings, so I’ve found it best to simply say, “What can I do?” and then let Jiab give me direction. This avoids her having to undo my different, if not counterproductive, method of choosing something because it “looked good to me” (translation: it was the first one I found). I also make sure she knows I appreciate her efforts, whether telling her, giving her a back rub, or maybe, say, writing an appreciative blog piece about her.
Together, we make a great team for exploring the world. I am thankful that I can wander where my mood takes me and be awed in a world that is made round, so that no matter where I stray, I’ll still eventually get where I want. Jiab, however, uses her “motion sensors” gets us there in a way that allows us to go more places, avoid roadblocks, and let’s us experience more things in our third life.
Emotion and motion, a pretty good tandem bike (but I still call ringing the bell!).