Friday, May 29, 2009

Life Really IS A Roller Coaster

This past Monday, some friends and I went to Six Flags for a day of fun and escapism. We got up early, got on the bus, and got to Six Flags before the main part of the park was even open, and we lined up at the rope waiting for them to drop it. It was all really cool. Now, here's the thing about taking me to Six Flags...
I am TERRIFIED of roller coasters

Ever since I was little, I've been scared of roller coasters. When I was young, my dad took me on one (ironically, at the very same Six Flags we were at that day) and I was scared half to death, and have been on very few roller coasters since. I would only get on VERY small ones, and never anything that went upside down.

So, of course, my friends, being the awesome, encouraging, fun-loving people that they are...

...put me on Nitro.

Now, I had promised to try to get on some of the roller coasters, despite being scared. I promised I'd try something that didn't go upside down. I had even joked that after the emotional roller coasters I'd been dragging my sorry ass through lately, I should be able to handle a real one no problem - there was no way a literal roller coaster could be anywhere near as scary, as painful, or as seemingly never-ending as the emotional roller coasters I've been locked into for months now. One friend and I even made a pact - we were leaving our baggage at the top of the first roller coaster and not thinking about it for the rest of the trip.

Being that we were pretty much the first people in the park, the line was extremely short and it took us probably ten minutes to get on the ride. During those ten minutes, I was utterly horrified at the idea that I would be actually getting on this roller coaster. When I sat down in the seat, I was about ready to cry, and when they fastened my little restraint, I was internally freaking out. Sitting in the station locked into this roller coaster is probably the closest I've come to having a full-fledged anxiety attack in the last six months.

Once the car started to move, it finally dawned on me. 
I was riding this roller coaster. I really was going to do it. At that point, there was nothing I could do, no matter how scared I was. I had given up my control, and I was in this for the long haul whether I wanted to be or not. As we started to climb the hill, my fear began to subside a bit... until I looked around. The closer we got to the top, the more nervous I became. The drop was imminent. There was nothing I could do. And maybe, deep down, that's why I was really so scared of roller coasters. I hate feeling out of control.

We reached the top of the hill, and the agonizing metal grinding noise of the car being tugged up the hill stopped. I looked down. We started to fall, and yes, I screamed. I clung to the safety restraints, and curled up into the fetal position as best I could. (My on-ride photo documented this for me quite nicely) And then it was over. We were soaring up the next hill. That was it. I uncurled myself a little. I sat back in my seat and opened my eyes. I unwrapped my white knuckled hands from the safety restraints. Finally, maybe halfway through the ride, I smiled, and threw my hands up in the air.
I was riding this roller coaster!!

My friends, who were seated on either side of me, cheered. Some little voice inside my head screamed "I'M FREE!". I got off the ride grinning, and proceeded to run over to the Batman coaster with my friends, and ride that too. That one even goes upside down. I went on the Dark Knight, which was a walk in the park compared to those, and then we ran back and I, yes, ME, the 
TERRIFIED OF ROLLER COASTERS GIRL, insisted that we go on Nitro again because the line was so short. This time, my on-ride photo was me grinning with my hands in the air.
I rode every open roller coaster in the park that day. Superman, Rolling Thunder (The one that had scared me as a child - I avenged my 7-year-old self!), The Great American Scream Machine (complete with SEVEN LOOPS!), even the brand-new Bizarro, and the incredibly intimidating El Toro, which were to become my two favorites. Sure, while waiting in line for some of them, I started getting scared again, (watching car after car go down the extremely steep first hill of El Toro is enough to make anyone nervous!) but it never stopped me from getting on. Kingda Ka was closed, so I didn't get to see just how far my newfound bravery would go, but I rode every other coaster.

But of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't somehow wax philosophical about all this. At the beginning of the day (and in the days prior), I had joked about how no real roller coaster could be worse than my emotional ones. By the end of the day, I had realized that they're really one in the same. Life is full of emotional and psychological roller coasters that we all have to get on whether we like it or not, and the only way to handle them is the same way you'd handle a real one.

Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry. Sometimes you scream from excitement, sometimes you scream from sheer terror. Sometimes it looks like a great idea from the start, but somewhere in the middle you realize it was actually an awful idea. Sometimes it looks like an awful idea, and you know it, but you get on anyway hoping for a few thrills. Sometimes it looks like an awful idea, and you realize you couldn't have been more wrong, and it's great. Sometimes you can see where you're going, sometimes you're completely in the dark. Sometimes it feels like it's over too quickly, and sometimes it feels like it's never going to end. But one thing is certain - once you've made the decision to ride, you've given up control, and at that point sometimes, the only thing you can do is take a deep breath, let go of your safety bar, and throw your hands up in the air, fully knowing that you are going to fall, but knowing that no matter what, you will survive, and there's a pretty good chance you'll enjoy the ride.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maybe We're Not Being Punished

Something we hear all the time is the age old question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

And it does. All the time. And it just never seems fair. Horrible things shouldn't happen to people who have done nothing to deserve it. And it makes you wonder, if there's someone up there looking out for us, who would let that happen. Not that whoever is up there is necessarily allowed to mess around in our lives, but still. I can't think about whoever is up there, if anyone at all. It plagues me.

I spent the day with some friends yesterday, and one of them has been going through a lot of shit recently, (and handling it like a saint, I can't even fathom coping the way she is, she's a real trooper) so she and I were discussing the stuff we've been going through lately that has been making life really difficult for us. Both of us have a lot on our plate with school, and jobs, and have recently had someone we love leave our lives, she's just been going through it ten times more intensely than I have. Like I said, can't even imagine. We kind of had a heart to heart on the bus last night, and she made an incredibly insightful comment.

"I don't think it's that we're being punished for anything, I mean, I don't know everything you've done in your life, but I can't imagine you've done anything that would ever make you deserve this, and I know I haven't, so I can't think it's that we're being punished. I think it's just that we needed this, because we needed to learn from it."

I was struck by this. We're all so concerned with "What have I done to deserve this?" that we forget about "What can I learn from this?" Maybe you didn't do anything at all. Maybe you didn't deserve it. But maybe you're supposed to learn from it, and if you don't, it's just a lot of pain, and a lot of waste.

Throughout all of this, I keep saying that I can't be mad, and I can't harbor any resentment, because I know that more than anything, I learned and grew so much because of everything that happened, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world. And maybe I didn't do anything to deserve the heartache I'm living with now, but maybe I needed the experience, and yea, the heartache, in order to grow.

No one wants to lose their job, or lose their parents, or watch their relationship fail, or become estranged from their family. And most of the time, the people whom these things happen to didn't deserve it. But if you don't take something away from the experience, it's as though you're suffering for nothing. I'm not saying that every single awful thing that happens to us has this great silver lining, because frankly, some things are just shitty no matter how you slice it. But as often as you can, learn something.

Don't ask "What did I do to deserve this?" Ask "What can I learn from this?" and then "Where do I go from here?"

Have you ever had something horrible happen to you that helped you grow? Did you ever feel like you didn't deserve something awful (or even something good) that happened to you? Did you learn something from the experience?


Monday, May 18, 2009

I Was The Girl In The Armani Ad

The habit I'm about to describe will be familiar to anyone here who is also from Manhattan, or probably any other city where train travel is the norm.

I take the subway up to school every morning. To perfect my commute and cut down my travel time to the absolute quickest it can possibly be, I do little things, like walking to a specific point on the subway platform so that I get in the car (and exit through the door) that will get me closet to the stairs I have to take when I get off the train. I have various ways of remembering exactly how far to go, and one of the things I sometimes use as a gauge is the advertisements that are on the walls. These change every so often, so I usually have another distinguishing feature, but I get used to the ads.

In the station that I typically take my first train from, there was an Armani ad that marked the spot where I would stand every morning.

Only the right half of the advertisement was hanging in my subway station. I would stand in front of this advertisement every morning, and I would stare at it in between intermittently leaning off the platform peering down the tunnel as if doing so would make my train arrive any faster. Every single day, I'd stare at the ad and I'd wish to be the girl in the Armani ad.

I guess everyone will see something different when they look at the ad. I look at it, and I see a beautiful and confident girl who has this guy completely enthralled. Something about their body language makes it look to me like she's drawing him in. Someone else could look at the same ad and read it differently, but when I looked at it every morning, that was what I saw. And that was what I wanted to be. I would gaze longingly at the ad every morning, wanting more than anything to put myself in her place. I wanted to be the girl in the Armani ad.

It wasn't until recently that I knew what it was like to be that close to someone, and to have someone holding you like that. It wasn't until even later that I knew what it was like to be close to someone, to be held like that, and to feel completely confident and beautiful while it was happening. I am often very insecure. It takes me a long time to get comfortable around people and get myself to a point where I can let them in. It's just something I find difficult. But the morning after I finally found myself in someone's arms feeling confident and beautiful, I smiled up at the sky, strode cooly out the door, and down to my subway stop. Maybe it was the way I stood up a little straighter. Maybe it was the way my hips swayed a little more. Maybe it was the way I noticed people looking at me. But when I stopped midway down the platform in front of the Armani ad, I looked at the girl, and I grinned.

For a day, 
I was the girl in the Armani ad.

Like all good things, the confidence faded. The situation that inspired it wound down. I returned to normal and arrived at the subway stop the following week to find that the ad had been covered over with a new ad for a movie coming out. It was too ironic to me that I should only get one day before life hit another one of its rough patches and we all stumbled and fell. One day of being the girl in the Armani ad. And then she and I were both gone.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Is Helping So Hard?

I'm sad that my latest blog inspiration had to be what it is. But I need to say this.

Is it really so hard for us to help people when they need it? I like to think that, despite my flaws, deep down, I'm a good person. We can't all help everyone all the time, but I can't get over the amount of people who ignore someone that obviously needs a simple favor.

I'm not talking about clothing and feeding every homeless person you find on the street, or adopting every child who is trapped in a foster home. I'm talking about simple, little things that every human being is capable of doing if they would just be willing to expend an ounce of energy to make someone else's life easier.

This was brought on by an experience that I had coming back to my apartment this morning. I was leaving the subway platform and a woman in front of me had presumably her daughter in a stroller, which she had turned backwards and was attempting to lug up the stairs by herself, and was CLEARLY struggling. She was tinier than me, and her daughter (who was ADORABLE) was not an itty bitty newborn. I was one of the last people on the platform, and I watched EVERY OTHER PERSON who had gotten off that train walk by this woman without even glancing in her direction, let alone offering her some help. I asked her if she needed a hand and helped her carry the stroller up the steps. It took me MAYBE ten seconds longer to get up the steps, and the woman was SO appreciative for the help. Could no one else have stopped to help? Not to be sexist, but would it really have killed one of the grown men who went up the stairs right before me to have stopped and helped this woman out?

I see this kind of thing happen all the time. People don't hold doors open for people anymore. They'll let an elevator door slam shut when someone is clearly asking them to hold it. Is that extra 5 seconds really going to matter that much in the long run? Believe me, I run on as tight of a schedule as everybody else, but I don't feel like that gives anyone a right to be rude. If you have to stand there an extra second so the person behind you can grab the door, do it. You would want someone to do the same for you. If there is someone on the bus or train who obviously needs the seat more than you do, get up. It frustrates me to no end when I see an elderly man, or a pregnant woman standing for a long subway ride over a college kid or a healthy adult who clearly does not need the rest as badly. If you see someone struggling to carry something, offer them a hand.

Random acts of kindness shouldn't be so random, and they shouldn't have to seem so few and far between.

Do you think common courtesy is falling by the wayside? Do you think people are generally rude, or generally well mannered? Do you think this is just because I live in Manhattan and we're all assholes here?