I wake up to a chilled, air conditioned room, and turn on the T.V. Still half asleep, I go to the sliding glass door, open it, and stagger onto the balcony. It’s a searing ninety-eight degree, eighty-percent humidity day. Normally, on past vacations, this weather wouldn’t be something to smile about, but this time is different. I’m eleven years old, and yesterday, for ten grueling hours, my parents drove my friend and me to the holy grail of rollercoaster parks, Cedar Point, in Sandusky Ohio. Over the past few months, I’d been obsessively counting the days until I would finally ride the rollercoaster of my dreams.
My friend and I tear open our car doors, grudgingly apply sunscreen to avoid the nagging from my parents, and start toward the entrance of the park. A flood of faraway screams enters my ears, reminding me that soon, I’ll be one of those screamers. Scouring the park map, I try to find the fastest route when (having read the map completely wrong) I realize I’m standing right next to it. I gaze upwards in awe; the king of all rollercoaster’s, the Millennium Force, is staring back down at me three-hundred and ten feet up, from over a mile of steel track. Tentatively, my friend and I enter the line.
After forty-five minutes, standing in a windless, fountainless line of sweating people begins to seem completely ridiculous. I feel like the heat is grabbing me, such that I can’t get away from it. The thought of escaping this virtual Death Valley to buy an ice-cold drink crosses my mind. But then I remember what awaits me at the end of the line, and I immediately beat back the thoughts of heat, replacing them with a commitment to endure these harsh conditions. I know that if I can endure the weather for perhaps an hour longer, I will obtain that which I’ve waited for all these months.
At this time, my friend, unlike me, couldn’t stand the thought of waiting any longer, so, she left. Now I’m alone. Not only would riding the rollercoaster have been more enjoyable with a friend, the knowledge that she could relate to my fear could have aided me greatly. Encouragement, to help me commit to staying, is no longer with me. Then, I appoint confidence to be my new friend. I try to be confident in my ability to conquer my fears, by myself.
Another half-hour passes by, and I’m able to see the loading area. With the train in full view, fear begins to knot my stomach. Fear keeps reminding me that soon, I’ll be standing, petrified before the gate, boarding a ride that had seemed a lot less scary on the Discovery channel. Soon, there will only be a few minutes to decide whether to stay, or to leave. Not looking at the exit, I think of my pledge to commitment.
Finally, I arrive at the end. As I stare towards the empty track in front of me, I hear the train clanking along the track. Heart beating, fingertips shaking, adrenaline pumping, I walk through the open gate and fall down to my seat. The harness comes down over my head, locking me, and my fate to the track. As the train ascends the highest peak, I wonder why I got in line for a ride that’s holding me dangerously close to the sky. I wonder why I’m riding one of my fears. I top the hill, the train stops briefly, and I soar down the other side. Everything erases from my mind. The heat is back at the top. The fear blows away with the wind. There is nothing left but pure happiness, and I laugh. I laugh to let some of the happiness out.
The ride ends, but my joy remains. I step off the ride, and a new feeling surfaces. I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I rode a rollercoaster for the first time, with no one by my side. I believe that with endurance, commitment, and confidence, one’s own fears and obstacles can be conquered easily.
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