I stand over my sheet cake from the grocery store. Clad in an oversized sweatshirt with puffy paint splattered on it in pastel colors, I move my gel-soaked (à la 80s one-hit-wonder Samantha Fox), crunchy spiral-permed hair out of my face and readjust my roller skate clad feet to maintain my balance.
Next year, I will be in the double digits, I think to myself.
At nine-years-old, I was already ready to become a grown-up. To own those double-digit numbers like the champ I knew I was.
But, at that young age, at Wheel-A-While with my elementary school friends, that grown-up life seemed a lifetime away.
I’d look at my parents, in their 30s, and think to myself: I’ll never get to that age. It’s SO. FAR. AWAY.
Like the roller coaster at Kings Dominion, I was on that uphill pull. Creaky. Slow. Waiting, with anticipation, for that first car to crest the top and begin plummeting down, down, down, through the loops, the dips, the corkscrews, until I reached that all-important “gravity-free” moment (anyone remember that story we were fed about The Grizzly having that temporary weightlessness?).
But, it all went so fast.
Faster than I could ever imagine.
I was nine. And then 10. I would sit in my room, staring at the southwestern-style (foreshadowing? Probably.) wallpaper and wonder what my life held.
When would I grow up? And, why did it seem that each week was such a struggle to get through? Those five school days lasted a lifetime in my young mind. And the weekends? I swear. I’d blink and then POOF. It was Monday morning and that shrill alarm was blasting next to my head as I wondered how likely it would be if my mom bought my fake sick moan and groan.
Years went by, but they ticked slowly.
And then, BAM.
I crested that first drop.
Suddenly, it was college. First job. First love. First move. First. First. First.
I was dipping. Cork-screwing. Plummeting towards that end of the ride without being able to put the brakes on it.
Weeks morphed into months and into years and into decades.
How the hell did this happen?
Yet, I close my eyes and I remember so vividly walking into my dorm room freshman year of college at Bowling Green State University in the corn-field crusted city of the same name. Meeting my roommate.
I remember so vividly starting my first job. Sitting in my cubicle, wondering why on earth I had to go through all that school to have that first crap job with a horrible boss.
I remember my first love. My first heartbreak. Like they were yesterday. Only, they weren’t. They were 15 years ago.
It seems like an instant has gone by since I sat outside on the balcony of my first apartment, drinking cheap beer and smoking cheaper pot, listening to Dave Matthews Band on my stereo.
It was yesterday. But, it wasn’t.
Dip. College. Side-bend. First job. Loop. Move. Drop. Thailand.
The ride? It’s gone so fast.
No one tells you that roller coaster plows you through life at monstrous speeds. That you go from childhood to super adult in the blink of an eye. That you need to learn to breathe. To relish. To cherish. To say “I love you.” To love. Truly. To face challenges with your head held high. To be vulnerable. To be honest. To listen to your heart … and your gut.
This roller coaster.
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Roller Coaster photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons, David Morton