“Harley and Me” : Bernadette Murphy Finds Herself Through Motorcycling and Risks
Bernadette Murphy’s “Harley and Me” is an engaging mix of personal story and in-depth research into the emotions and science behind changing your life and seeking new experiences.
This is not a Cheryl Strayed 300-page find-yourself memoir that ends with a closing chapter on realizations and resolutions. Bernadette weaves parts of her life story among biology and neuroscience facts to help explain her sudden desire for novelty, like learning to motorcycle, divorcing her long-time husband and overall changing her life.
“Harley and Me”
As Bernadette tried to identify a growing sense of discontentment a friend asked the author, “When you go quiet inside, what do you feel you need to do?” Bernadette replied, “I don’t know. I haven’t felt quiet inside lately.”
Researching a piece for work lead Bernadette to sign up for a motorcycle drivers education class. She has to leave her dying fathers bedside to attend. “There is something mystical about the moment as if I’ve been handed powers,” she wrote of her first time on a bike.
48-year-old Bernadette buys a motorcycle the day after her dad dies. She parks it in the family garage where it sits, filling her with guilt so she calls a psychologist to offer insight on her $8,000 purchase. She notes that while the big buy was an example of grief made manifest it was also a full-hearted embrace of life. The psychologist assures her that risk is healthy when done right especially at her age. Thus begins her dive into the psychology behind novelty-seeking.
While learning to motorcycle, Bernadette’s marriage is at its end and she is navigating separating into two separate households. As the author gains confidence away from her marriage, her improving point of view and determination translate to spending more time on the bike she was initially very nervous about.
“Riding this morning I feel genderless and ageless, more a point of consciousness than a person,” she wrote after a particularly great ride.
Bernadette dives into neuroscience, sharing facts about risk-taking, the genetic predisposition for making adrenaline-filled choices and the fight or flight response associated with fear. She shares instances that make her question her choices, like getting back on a bike after her son has a bad motorcycle accident. The author turns to research to help her decide that she isn’t alone in her fascination with trying new things and to explain that other middle-aged women were dissatisfied and leaving their marriages in the pursuit of a life outside the “wife” and “mom” roles.
From dealing with a divorce, moving into her own place and grieving the death of her dad, Bernadette’s was on a journey back to herself and data gave her little nudges along the way. Bernadette’s voice is humorous and introspective, so don’t shy away thinking you’re not into dry research papers.
No matter your age, everyone can relate to the author’s mounting anxiety to try something and the flood of positivity and excitement that comes with successful attempts.
Bernadette asks readers to think of a woman on a bike in a film or book who isn’t just a side piece while a man drives. She notes that women are often only pictured if they are endangered or raped. She wants to change that narrative because girls want to experience the road, too, and society will respond differently to that desire when they’ve seen women in the media taking road trips and joining bike crews. We think she’s doing a great job in helping bridge that gap as an awesome representative that badass ladies can do anything they want.
Read “Harley and Me” if you’re looking for an insightful read full of heartfelt moments and affirming research about times of crises and the urge to move on. You’ll enjoy Bernadette’s personal anecdotes about gaining her footing at a Harley Davidson shop, riding across the country to a biker rally and learning to date after many years of marriage and raising kids.