Tck…tck…tck…tck…cha-CHUNK. A roller coaster climbs. Just the thought of that sound makes my entire body clench. It is really the worst kind of anticipation. Dread…dread…dread…dread…DOOM. My favorite part of a roller coaster is exiting the ride. Even if it is on Jello legs.
“The Beast” is located at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio. It is the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. It is also the site of one of the most phenomenal errors in judgment that I have ever made. From the line, all the way to the point of boarding, you can see what you (naively) believe is the entire ride. The actual truth is that the ride covers more than 35 acres. What you are looking at is only the first half. While the average coaster ride is completed in just under two minutes, “The Beast” takes over four. Isn’t that nice?The reason that it goes for so long is the most diabolical feature of all. It has a second chain lift hill, LARGER than the first. At the exact moment when the ride begins to slow, and you think that you have survived to see another day, you find that you are actually beginning a SECOND tck…tck…tck… up a monstrous incline. NOW you can see what you were blithely unaware of as you boarded this death machine, and each “tck” reinforces the fact that you have zero options to save yourself.
That second chain lift hill made me irrationally angry. I had already paid my dues. I did NOT sign up for this. The people who designed this were EVIL. How could they expect MORE out of me? My body went rigid. Preemptive rigor mortis. The g-force inside of me far surpassed anything that was happening on the outside. I resisted every drop, twist, and turn.
The next day, I felt like I had been in a car wreck. Like I was driving a Mini-Cooper and I was T-boned by a semi.
I can’t help but compare this experience to life. You think you know what you signed up for at the beginning. You calculate the risks from what you can see. You put yourself in the seat, acknowledging that there will be difficulties. You power your way through. Finally, you begin to relax, as you believe that you have made it through the hard parts.
Then along comes that second chain lift hill. Bigger, scarier, completely unfamiliar.
You can rage at the machine. You can resist with every molecule in your body. You can become as rigid as cement.
You will feel like you have been in a car wreck.
You can acknowledge that you are afraid, and guess what – that is perfectly OK. You can embrace the unknown as simply that – not previously known – not pending apocalyptic doom. You can attempt to enjoy what is decidedly out of your comfort zone. Raise your arms, let out that half scream/half laugh. Unclench. Remind yourself that you are not strapped to a runaway boxcar – even if it feels that way. There is a track supporting and directing your every move. Which, by the way, it has been doing since the beginning. Just because you felt like you were making an informed choice to participate in part A – and part B came as a shock – doesn’t mean that you were ever in charge of the ride. You aren’t driving. They don’t call it a “drive.” They call it a “ride.” It feels out of control because you don’t have a steering wheel and brakes. Guess what – you never did.
Relax. Ride. Look around you. You are not riding alone.