I Looked Up

It’s time to mingle again! 

I feel compelled to serve something healthy in honor of Maribel.  Green smoothie anyone?

It’s difficult to categorize Maribel’s blog in a word or two except to say that much of what she writes about revolves around making positive change.  And who can’t use a little of that?  Maribel writes about healthy eating, positive living, and about broadening our mindsets every way possible.  Maribel’s blog offers great health, fitness and eating tips while at the same time, she shares her personal journey with us.  The anecdotes she shares include but are not limited to eating, body image, career , and culture.    

I can’t gush about Maribel enough.  Trust me when I tell you that she is a gem.  Beautiful, thoughtful, wise and insightful, she is definitely someone you’ll be glad to meet.  

I looked up

“Remember to always look up!” he said cheerily.

Sure, that’s easy for you to say, I thought angrily.

I took a deep breath, pushed off on my right foot and fought for balance. I couldn’t get my eyes off the ground for more than a couple of seconds.

This is impossible.  I’m going to fall and look like an idiot. 

I managed to get my foot on the pedals, push off, and maintain my balance. Then came the hard part: keeping my eyes up.

This is…..pretty awesome! I thought. What was I so scared of?

That question resonates weeks later as I think back on that moment of fearlessness and joy after spending two hours learning how to ride a bicycle. Yes, I’m twenty-nine years old and never learned how to ride a bike. Feel free to gawk and chuckle. I’ve heard it all before, trust me.

After several failed attempts at learning in my early twenties, including one traumatic ordeal that ended with my hitting a curb at full speed and flying off the bike in front of dozens of people, narrowly missing a lamppost but losing all of my dignity, I had given up on bicycles completely.

I suppose you could say this is a classic metaphor for life. I fell. It hurt. I turned away from the source of that pain. I refused to try it again for years until the day I decided to overcome my fear and get back on the saddle. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Right?

Well, sure, I suppose it is that kind of story at first sight. But that’s not what resonates when I think back on that sunny Saturday morning last month while riding that bike in small circles over and over again.

I looked up.

For one moment in my life, I found myself in a terrifying situation and chose to lift my eyes and stare straight ahead. Forget the logistics of keeping myself balanced on two wheels for a second and consider the impact of that statement:

I looked up.

It wasn’t until after this momentous day that I realized how much time I spend each day looking down. My eyes barely make it off the ground as I take my walks, stand in lines, take the bus, or wait for an elevator. I see more of the floor then I do people or buildings.

I refuse to make eye contact with others and I force my eyes downward so often, it’s practically a reflex. Much like my unstoppable urge to say “I’m sorry” every five minutes for absolutely no reason, I look down in deference to no one in particular.

I think some part of me equated looking up as an act of audacious pride. It’s almost too bold to let your eyes connect with your surroundings in such a direct way. To be comfortable enough to look and hold a gaze is something I never felt capable of doing, let alone attempting.

I could avoid drawing attention to myself which was optimal because I didn’t think I deserved much of it anyway. I hadn’t accomplished anything major in my career or personal life and I felt like such a constant disappointment, that I didn’t see any reason to take my eyes off the ground. What did I have to be proud of? Why should I walk with my head up when I have nothing to show for it?

So I kept my eyes down. It’s much safer that way, I thought.

As I listened to the instructor remind us of the exercises we’d practiced for the better part of an hour, I kept fumbling on the pedals and looking at my feet and the scary cracks on the ground that would surely cause a terrible fall landing me in the hospital. Nevermind the crushing embarrassment.

Fear and all of his friends starting crashing on my party until I finally decided to listen to the teacher and force my eyes up.

And just like that, the fear dissolved. The wind picked up along with my pace and I felt like I was flying. Completely free and fearless for the first time in a very long time. It was joy. Pure undiluted joy coursing through my veins and into my heart.

I asked myself, what was so I so scared of? Is this what children feel when they learn how to swim or ride a bike? Or is this different because I’ve had all these years to sit and stew in fear?

Does it really matter?

What I took away from that incredible experience wasn’t the importance of persistence to overcome my insecurities or how to ride a bike. Or at least, it wasn’t just that.

I learned how something as simple as looking up can open your eyes to your inner strength and give you the confidence to project that to the world around you. You can see the path ahead of you and walk towards it with excitement instead of trepidation. You embrace who you are fully and become eager to share that person without fear of reprieve or criticism.

You stop thinking and start living

I have yet to get back on a bike since that day. In some ways, though, I’m fighting for that balance each day. I stumble sometimes and allow my insecurities to throw me off track. But every now and then I remember to look up and I feel that sensation of fearlessness. Just like riding a bike.

My name is Maribel and Food4ThoughtNYC is a space where ideas about food, nutrition, wellness and all the things in between can be shared and exchanged. I’m a New Yorker through and through. I walk fast, I talk faster, and I’m quick to judge on first impressions. That said, I’m always striving to broaden my horizons through travel, food, and dialogue. I love to explore and to challenge myself to see new places and get out of my urban comfort zone. What I love even more is studying how people relate to their food culture and what role nutrition plays in the lives of others. I’m on a journey to find out what moves people to eat, how cultures shape our relationships with food, and what we can do to improve the health of our communities. I share my stories of ups and downs as I embrace ways to achieve optimal living and happiness in the middle of the most chaotic city on Earth. 
Where to find Maribel:



I Looked Up — 41 Comments

  1. Thanks again Ilene for being the best hostess a blogger could ask for! Your kinds words and support mean so much and I’m so grateful to be a guest today. All this talk about bicycles really makes me want to get out on the road again. 🙂

  2. I love that this is about conquering fears. That you finally learned how to ride a bike is great but the bigger fear is connecting to the world around you and who would have thought it could be as simple as looking up. I absolutely love the comparison to forging through, looking up and continuing to pedal. Isn’t that exactly what we have to do to get through adversity in our lives? Very inspiring!
    AnnMarie recently posted…The Father’s Day PostMy Profile

    • Thank you AnnMarie! It took me some time to really get to the heart of what I felt that day and once I made the connection, it seemed almost too simple. The way we approach situations that are scary or intimidating says a lot about how we approach life in general. I guess getting on a bike and trusting myself to stay upright was the perfect metaphor at the perfect time. Funny how things work themselves out, isn’t it? Thanks so much for reading and for your comments! 🙂

  3. I recognized myself in this; I look down a lot. It feels like an effort to look up sometimes, when I am focused on my thoughts and the moment. I am learning to run, and one time when I do look up is when I head out with my running shoes on and my tunes in my ears. I love that feeling. This post has me thinking about how I can look up more – even when I am not running.
    Kim recently posted…Three If By SeaMy Profile

    • Looking down all the time almost seems like a reflex, doesn’t it? I made the excuse for a long time that I did this because I’m a New Yorker and we don’t make eye contact. We all live in our own little worlds that we carry around with us everyday. And while that’s true to some extent, I had to be honest with myself about why I did this so often and how it made me feel. We all have so many things going on at once that it’s easy to forget how something as simple as looking up and turning our thoughts from looking inward to outward can have such a healing effect. I hope you find ways to look up more too- enjoy the view Kim! Thank you. 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

  4. I learned to ride a bike as a kid..not early or anything. I was seven. I could pretty much fly down hills after awhile. It was the best feeling ever. Uphill? Not so much. Not so long ago, I tried to ride a bike again for the first time in like 15 years. I thought it would be just like that expression about learning to ride a bike and you never lose it. Well, I kinda did! I just couldn’t do it. I imagine I was filled with fears I didn’t have at age 7 – about being bigger and farther from the ground and less invincible – at least in my head, anyway. I have yet to try again but I want to feel that flying feeling again. So badly.
    Tamara recently posted…You Have No Power Here.My Profile

    • I never got to try as a child, but I imagine that it would have been a much easier experience. I went to a woman’s event recently where the speaker encouraged us to think back on how we were as kids and to apply that same level of excitement and fearlessness into our networking event that day. It was SO hard to just not care about making a fool of myself and it made me appreciate my childhood so much more by the end. I tell myself and everyone around me now to just let loose and be a kid whenever you can. If you want to feel that flying feeling again, you will. Take some cues from the kids around you to get inspired to get back on that bike! 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

    • Thank you Justine! And I totally agree. Gosh the times I’ve actually fallen or tripped even with my eyes on the ground- countless! Your stride and the way your body aligns itself all changes when your head is up. Amazing how something so simple can alter everything. 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

  5. I’ve recently been reflecting on how often I watch my feet while walking. I have been making a concerted effort to look up when walking around, so that I can see the people and scenery around me.
    Rabia @ TheLiebers recently posted…Hump Day Hook UpMy Profile

    • I hear you Rabia. It niggled at the back of my mind for a long while before I went to my bike riding class. Then it hit me that day how much I was missing out by keeping my eyes down. Continue making the effort to look up! 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

  6. I tell my youngest son all the time to look up. While my intention is more related to safety – the kid just doesn’t pay attention to what’s in front of him! – it means a whole lot more after reading this post. We all need to remember to look up every now and then.

    Thanks, Ilene, for introducing me to Maribel!
    another jennifer recently posted…Old School Blogging, Another Jennifer StyleMy Profile

    • Thank you Jen! I love that this will inspire your kids in more ways than one. Another excuse I made for looking down all the time was because I’m constantly tripping over my feet. Now that I think about it, I realize that I actually tripped MORE because I was too worried about what other people thought about me when I walked down the street. Way too much baggage to carry around for a simple walk! So glad you read the post and to have found you through Ilene. 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Kim! I’m in the overthinker club with you as well. My brain is ALWAYS going and that ends up getting me stuck most of the time. We need these kind of experiences to remind us of the big picture. Like you said, take a deep breath and let the journey begin. I’m so happy that this inspires you to look up! 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

    • Whoa skiing! That’s a whole other level!! But it’s all based in that same fear isn’t it? My friends always push me to say “yes” more often and slowly but surely, I’m opening up to these new experiences. They’re so vital to keep us feeling alive and happy. I admire your courage to tackle skiing (that’s somewhere on the bucket list, further down past swimming and driving more than 3 blocks- I’m a New Yorker so these skills never made their way into my daily life!) and that you’re making the effort to look up. Maybe one day I’ll see you on the slopes. 😉
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

    • Absolutely Leah! Especially now that’s summertime and there’s so much natural beauty out there to see. Thank you for reading and keep looking up! 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

  7. I have completely forgotten what its like to ride a bike. I tried recently and ended up hurting myself – so the saying, “it’s like riding a bike – you never forget” well, I forgot but I want to try again, at 30 there is no time like the present right? My favorite thing you said “I learned how something as simple as looking up can open your eyes to your inner strength and give you the confidence to project that to the world around you. ” Just perfect!
    Krystal recently posted…City Mouse in a Small TownMy Profile

    • Thanks Krystal! There is definitely no time like the present and each moment is an opportunity. I hope you get back on that bike and give it another go. We all have so much to contribute to the world around us if we just get out of own way, you know? Keep riding and keep looking up! 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

    • Thank YOU so much! That makes me really happy to hear! I’m grateful to Ilene for introducing me to all of you. I’m looking forward to connecting with you and sharing our stories! 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

  8. Before I sound like a total idiot, I do recognize the point of this was about facing fears. Now that I’ve said that, I also loved how the image of you learning to ride a bike and feeling the freedom once you looked up reminded me of riding my bike and how amazing it feels as you are gliding along, fast or slow, and just being able to take the world in around you. Now back to fear – I have found that when I have caved in to my fears, I have missed out on what could have been life changing events. I wish I had looked up a little more… beautiful post.
    Alexa recently posted…Change – the only constantMy Profile

    • Thank you Alexa! This post was a bit of both: facing your fears and the pure joy of being unburdened by fear. Looking up was a thread through both and it was a surprising link for me that took me some time to figure out. I knew immediately that I had to write this down and I’m so grateful to Ilene for giving me the space to share this with you and all of her tribe. We’re all looking up in our own ways by writing our stories and sharing them with each other. I think the more we focus on the good, we’ll learn to take advantage of the opportunities that help get us to that place of happiness. Being a guest this week for Ilene qualifies as one of those “good” moments. Thank you for reading Alexa and keep those eyes up! 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…I Looked UpMy Profile

  9. There seriously is so much that I love about this post Maribel – the imagery, the breakthrough, the freedom. I too spend way too much time looking down. It IS an automatic reflex for me but we do have to look up and see the world around us. We miss out on so much when we don’t look up. So lovely to see you here Maribel!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…A subtle hintMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Christine! It was a pleasure sharing this with Ilene and with all of you. I’ve been eying the Citibikes here in NYC (the new bikeshare program that launched last month) and am still working up the nerve to get on a bike on my own. Until I do, however, I’m definitely working on keeping my eyes off the ground. So glad to hear your thoughts Christine and thanks for sharing the post! 🙂

  10. Oh this is just so great, Maribel! First I am SO proud of you for taking that risk and facing your fear head on! Second, looking up is so symbolic of truly believing… having faith… in yourself. Ah… don’t we all need to look “up” more!
    Chris Carter recently posted…Collective Blog Hop!My Profile

    • That’s so nice of you to say Chris! It took me a long time to get back on the bike, especially after my disastrous experience in college (which included an ex that I didn’t mention in the post- so many negatives rolled into that event), but I’m so grateful that I did and that I was able to get so much out of that day. Thank you for your kind words! 🙂
      Maribel recently posted…Is Obesity a Disease?My Profile

  11. Yes. This. I find myself struggling so often with the most basic things, too. And just earlier today while on a walk around town with a girlfriend we were both chatting and my eyes were so focused on the ground… for what purpose? Was I scared I would look up and loose balance? Haven’t I mastered the art of walking after 35 years?

    So very glad Kimberly of Rubber Chicken Madness sent me here today 🙂 I love this.
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