The Ride of My LifeMar 01, 2021 08:30AM ● By Diane Martinez
As the youngest child by many years in my family, I idolized my older siblings. I studied them, wanted to be like them and sought their attention and their time every day. As I grew older, that admiration didn’t diminish.
Fast-forward to a beautiful summer Sunday in Atlanta, circa 1994, when my big brother Tom came to visit from Indiana. Instantly, I felt like I was 11 years old again, although the calendar had me firmly in my mid-30s. I egged him on, wanting to play, but more than anything, I wanted to make him proud of me.
Our first outing was to the Whitewater water park. We arrived bright and early before the crowds got big and the lines got long. Within 15 minutes of our arrival, we walked by the Dragon’s Tail ride. Thrill level: Max.
“C’mon D, let’s go!” Tom shouted at me.
If anybody else had asked me to go on that ride, I would have politely declined. I love water, but that ride was more about terror than water. I didn’t want to disappoint Big Bro, though, so up the multiple flights of stairs we climbed. The wood was hot under my bare feet, and I kept an eye out to see if anyone was walking back down the stairs—opting not to take the plunge to certain death. The line wasn’t long, but I agonized every second of the wait. What. Was. I. Doing?
As our turn approached, I started to panic. My heart was pounding, I felt jittery, and I desperately wanted to turn around and head back down the stairs. Shame seemed a better alternative.
“Lie back, cross your ankles and clasp your fingers behind your head!” barked the teen attendant as I gingerly stepped into the little pool at the top.
“Oh no, I don’t think so,” I thought. “I’ll just scoot my way down nice and slow.” Sitting at the top of the slide, I followed none of the directions. I grabbed both sides of the slide and began scooting my way forward. However, the ride’s design prevented me from making any real progress with this method; the huge jets of water meant to propel us to the bottom didn’t actually make contact with the surface of the slide. I quickly discovered that scooting was not an option.
Seeing no alternative, I laid back, crossed my ankles, clasped my hands behind my head and closed my eyes like never before. Off I flew.
Needless to say, the ride did not last long. Mid-flight, I realized that I was being carried along only by a jet of water, and then I was plunged dramatically into the pool at the bottom. I had survived. Deliriously relieved it was over and proud that I had acted far braver than I felt, I spent the rest of the day in a happy daze.
Decades later, the lessons from that experience took on greater meaning: How often in life do we try to “scoot” forward, attempting to control events, people, and circumstances because it feels too overwhelming and risky to just let life be? We sometimes try to go so slowly and fearfully that we miss the adventure. The sense of control we get from our efforts to manipulate is intoxicating, but it is an illusion. It is no more helpful or sustainable than my attempt to scoot my way down the Dragon’s Tail. ❧