I recall attending a local carnival when I was around…let’s see…in all my stories I’m 4, 8, 12 or 16, so in this one, I’ll say I was 16 years old. Close enough.
A friend of mine, Rodney Plattner, had nearly a whole book of tickets left to spend, and it was 10 pm on Saturday night, which meant the carnival was closing in two hours.
“Rob, man, everyone else has gone home. You have to help me use up these tickets!”
While my dad was President of the local bank, I was poor. Dad’s been saving for retirement since birth, I think, but I had no money, so this sounded like a hoot to me. After much discussion, we decided on a ride which bolted us in a metal cage, spinning our individual cart around, while our cart and many others spun a large, oblong circle. The exact name of the ride escapes me, but what I do remember is Rodney giving the Carney his ticket book and saying, “Don’t unlock this door until I’m outta tickets, man!”
Wow, that was amazing. I was laughing hysterically…for the first seven rides. Something about that eighth time around, though, did me in. My head had taken too much punishment, and I nearly spewed foot-long corndog all over my buddy.
That was youth. Over the years, however, my back pain kept getting worse, and then came my first spinal surgery. Suddenly, roller coasters were out of the question.
So along comes Trey, my son. He loves roller coasters, but had given up ever riding one with his old man. “I can’t chance it,” I’d tell him. “It’s just not worth the potential injury.”
A couple years ago, however, after playing it safe for 15 years, I decided to throw caution to the wind and ride a roller coaster with Trey for the first time. I asked my wife, Laura, and my adult daughter, Jessica, “What do you think? Is this the stupidest thing I’ve ever done or what?”
Jess looked at me a long time, and finally said, “Well, not the stupidest.” Wasn’t sure what that meant so I took it as her blessing. Laura said, “You limit yourself too much, babe. If you think this is something you can do, then do it, and don’t look back.”
No wonder I love that woman so.
I was afraid I might injure myself permanently, but braced myself to do it anyway. Laura took a picture of us just as the ride got underway, and if you want a good laugh, check out the pure, unadulterated FEAR on my face, and the JOY on his! Compare that with another picture of Trey and myself, taken this past May at Universal Studios, Orlando. The look on my face that time is a combination of terror and pain!
In the shot, you can also see my son, flashin’ the metal horns and screaming. He’s having a blast. And me? I gritted my teeth, clamped my eyes shut tight and held on with a white-knuckled grip. Absolutely terrifying, to be sure. But I’d never had so much fun in my life.
I think you may need to step out of your comfort zone this weekend. “And do what?” you ask. Only you can answer that: maybe you haven’t gone to the mall in years (“anxiety, you know”), and have been dying for an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. So DO it! Perhaps you should go skydiving, or snowboarding, or even bike riding. I don’t care, just free your spirit and go for it. Soon you really will be too old to do all those things you’ve only been dreaming of.
And it’ll be too late.
Harrowing? Undoubtedly. Painful? Perhaps, but your spirit is dying and needs to be revived.
There’s something else, though. I think someone in your life needs you to step out of your safe zone today. They need your love, your sense of adventure and your passion for life. Maybe a friend, a child, a spouse or a grandchild.
Or perhaps it’s just you.
Go for it. I did, and have never looked back. Now every time we go to a theme park, I ask Trey which ONE roller coaster he’d like me to ride with him. Yes, I avoid certain ones, due to real potential for injury, but with a little research and much prayer (!), I clench my teeth, strap in and hang on for dear life. For that short ride, I am once again on the threshold of insanity and ecstasy. I’m free.
Don’t let fear or pain keep you in the dark. Dare to LIVE!
Do you have the guts?