At 8:55 am last Wednesday, my husband Jeramie and I stood in a long line of excited thrill seekers waiting to get on a brand new roller coaster at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky Ohio… a mecca for roller coaster enthusiasts.
About 18 hours earlier, as we drove around the peninsula that the park sits on, I stared out my window in awe, the monstrous rides around me. A brand new wooden coaster with a 200 foot drop at 90 degrees that looked less than natural… my heart was racing.
But as Jeramie speed walked through the line at 9:01 am last Wednesday, I reminded myself that I chose this.
I chose this.
We went on Steel Vengeance, the incredible refurbished wooden coaster at the amusement park and it was indescribable. Jeramie, who has been on probably 50 different roller coasters in his life was speechless. That doesn’t happen very often. He declared that this was by far the greatest coaster he had ever been on.
It took you straight down the first 200 foot drop, through 4 different corkscrew barrel roles, and had you practically airborn in your seat for close to 30 seconds total. The ride threw everything and anything at you. It keep you on your toes. You were tangled up in the intricate designs of this massive wooden structure and you never saw what was coming next.
Later on that evening, I was in line for another mammoth roller coaster and couldn’t help but overhear a young girl and her boyfriend in line behind me. The girl was terrified. Her boyfriend, understood her fear and assured her he was okay if they decided not to go on the ride. When I looked back, they were leaving the line.
This piece is not a review of roller coasters, although I loved every one I went on during my vacation last week… but a tribute to our choice to get on them and ride.
We have all heard about life’s ups and downs, a roller coaster of emotions, experiences, good times and bad times.
The theme that hit me over and over last week is that it’s my choice to get on these rides. My husband and I spent many hours in line waiting for the thrills that come from these exciting structures.
I think that this is life. I think, we all wait in line to get on a ride that will take you straight up to the sky one minute, and plummeting down to the earth the next.
I think that we love it.
Every time I found myself waiting in a line, I would start to imagine… how fast does this one go? What is the drop like? Will it feel like flying?
And then there’s the adrenaline.
One of the rides, The Top Thrill Dragster, launches you straight up 420 feet into the sky at 120 miles per hour, crests over the top and then plummets you straight back down 420 feet. The ride is over in 17 seconds.
I had been on this one about 12 years ago, terrified, but loved every second. Last week, I sat in the same spot, my adrenaline through the roof as I waited for the launch.
Someone asked me what the point is… what is the point of getting on these insane rides, waiting in the lines, riding the front car, buying the photo with your hands in the air. Why do it at all?
Because it’s fun. Because it is just like our life.
We have options. We can line up and play with our adrenaline levels and throw our hands in the air while enjoying barrel roles and unpredictable drops and corners. We can smile for the photo, or we can be paralyzed in fear. We can ride solo, or we can ride with our best friend. Most times when I get off a coaster, I’m laughing. I’m beside myself happy, filled with excitement, waiting to get off and probably do it again.
At the same time, we can decide to go on something slower. And that’s fine too. My little girls enjoyed riding in circles on the antique cars, the view that comes from the top of the Ferris Wheel, and the pretty metallic paint of the kiddie mac trucks.
It’s our choice what we get on and the experience that we decide to have. We decide whether we’re going to play it safe and slow on the merry-go-round, whether we flood our system with adrenaline before the 120 mph launch, or whether we just relax and enjoy the few from the gondola ride over the midway.
It’s up to us, and we can’t get it wrong.
We are all living our lives dependent on which ride we get on.
My life, right now, does feel like an intense roller coaster. There are days where I’m flying with my hands in the air, laughing all the way… and there are days where my head is spinning and I need the ride to be over.
But… It’s my decision to get on.
It’s my decision whether I let fear grip me or embrace the free fall.
I always joke with Jeramie about that moment when you get to the top of the hill on a good coaster. Some of the rides will hold you there for about 2 seconds… which feels like 2 minutes. Whenever I get to that place, I can’t help but flash my life quickly before me… thinking that this is a good thing I have here… I’m happy in this moment, and if it all ended now, it was a good time.
After a solid week of riding all these awesome structures I realized… for the first time, in a long time, I had had fun. For the first week in many (MANY) months, I wasn’t really worried about much. I just enjoyed the ride. I let myself have fun. I put my arms up, worked through my fear, closed my eyes for a few seconds, and felt like I was flying.
That’s why we ride.