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The Ups and downs

Hannah VanderHeiden

"Meatplow" Noah Cummins

Click. Click. Click. Seat belts lock into place and a heavily padded bar lies across your chest. You rattle it to ensure it's safely secured. Once that fear has passed, the excitement begins. It flows through your body as the anticipation continues to grow like wildfire. Finally, the engine sighs as the roller coaster leaves the station. It crawls to its starting place. It chugs and chugs along until, finally, you’re off! Similar to life, you’re no longer in the safety of the coaster’s home, but on the track laid before you.


Your head snaps back against the firm black headrest. Like high school, you’re shoved into the ride without time to prepare. The wind smacks your face. Your eyes begin to water. The outside world is only a blur—your tears have blinded you. Time is flying. Your friends behind you are no longer visible. It’s only you and your seatmate. There’s a slight haze clouding your sight. All you can make out is what’s in front of you. The fifteen feet of straight track, the massive, terrifying loop you are soon to be thrown into, and the few cars ahead of you filled with the other passengers.


Tunnel vision has set in causing your surroundings to disappear. Your scenery is constantly changing. The track seems to never reach the end. Your only goal is to look forward and focus on the track ahead. 


You are no longer in control. Your arms flail above you as if you were a wacky wavy inflatable tube man. Your body flings every which way with each turn of the track. Your only option is to trust the path laid before you. The shrieks of your fellow riders are drowned out by your own. They get louder and louder with each drop of the track. The howls of the passengers are accompanied by the feeling of your stomach dropping as if it were coming up through your throat. 


The frightening feeling of your empty seat beneath you sends panic rushing through your body. This familiar feeling of alarm causes flashbacks. The stress of paving your way fills your mind. Back to reality, at the bottom, your stomach slams right back into place. You are hit with an exhilarating force as you are flung straight back up and thrown into a sharp curve.


This time it is different. Your stomach stays in place. It does not drop. Instead, your body is smashed against the side. A force so strong you’re stuck, but only momentarily. You whip out of the turn and enter a new one. You feel a great sense of relief as you are no longer being crushed against the side of the cart. Just as you think it is over, you are thrown into another turn. And another. And another. Your body flies from side to side. 


You have no control over your movements, just as you have no control over what turns are thrown at you in life. Your body adjusts, just as you adjust to problems. The ride is almost over. You’re dreaming of the end. 


Finally, you see the station. Screams are replaced with laughter and the screeching brakes bring you to your final destination. Right where you began. Only this time your head didn’t snap back. Instead, your head jolted forward with the sudden halt of the coaster. What was once fear, has now turned to relief. You can see once again. Your peripheral vision has returned. The haze is gone. The tears have stopped. The wind is no longer assaulting your face. You can relax. The smile growing across your face leaves no confusion as to whether or not you enjoyed the ride. 


As you exit your seat, making room for someone new, you reminisce about the excitement you just endured. A lifetime of ups and downs. What felt like years upon years filled with fear, excitement, stress, reassurance, and relief. All of it can be summed up into just sixty seconds of pure adrenaline. Sixty seconds so comparable to life, you begin to realize why time flies when you’re having fun. 

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