Life is like a roller coaster, and that’s OK

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Caitlin Walker

RBC | When I was 13 or so, I went on a youth trip to Elitches in Denver. It was a big deal. I, a shy homeschooled pastor’s kid, was to be released into the amusement park wilds with a bunch of other irrational teens. (Okay, okay, with a one to three chaperone-to-kid ratio, but still.)

My first misstep of the trip was foregoing sunscreen. No matter who you are, greasing yourself up with SPF 50 every hour falls into the “not cool” category. I have about 500 freckles to remind me how terrible that decision was.

The next mishap involved roller coasters. My mind’s eye switched into what I call “doom mode” and all I could see was an endless loop of every roller coaster disaster I had ever seen or imagined. I got on the first ride anyway, but when that harness clicked into place, I panicked and screamed for someone to let me off.

Of course, to unfasten one harness you have to unfasten them all, meaning I had a captive (and annoyed) audience for my walk of shame.

In that moment, I was pretty certain I would die of mortification.

Then, 10 minutes later, I got my knee stuck in the fence waiting in line for the Tower of Doom (which I also chickened out of, before I was strapped in this time, thankfully) and they had to use the park’s speaker system to ask someone with lotion or butter (really, butter) to come to my rescue.

That was when I first began to realize I’m one of those people whose life is a long parade of embarrassments. But hey, it’s given me a sense of humor and lots to write about, so I can’t really complain.

And as I get older, I’m understanding just how much real life is like a roller coaster ride. We have no idea what twists and turns are coming and no harnesses or belts or safety switches to keep us on track.

We’d all love to have a little certainty, and after a particularly shocking loop-the-loop, we might even wish someone would just let us off.

I’ve been there, and discovered almost too late it’s not the answer.

So then, how are we supposed to enjoy this wild, uncertain ride when we have no idea what’s coming?

Well, a few years later, I returned to Elitches with my family and then-boyfriend now-husband in tow. I sat back, took a deep breath, closed my eyes, raised my arms and rode every single coaster in that park. There were a few terrifying seconds and a lot of amazing ones, but the simple act of being in the moment with the people I loved was how I got through it all.

I think that’s how you do it.

It was, and still is, a beautiful ride.