Tag: roller coaster

Riding the Rails

Riding the Rails

27 May 2017

I love roller coasters.  I’ve always loved roller coasters.  There’s something to be said about the unknown, especially as a first-time rider.  Whether the ride is on wood or steel, the adrenaline rush of being whipped, zipped, cork-screwed, and turned upside down and around is thrilling.  It begins with the anticipation, standing in line, watching the carts working with and defying gravity.  You are getting closer to the front of the line.  Do you ask to sit in front, to be the first witness at that 90-degree plunge, or do you ask to sit in the back, when you are the last to see what unfolds in front of you as you are slightly lifted from your seat?  Or do you stay within the middle?

A few summers ago, I was at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio.  Their claim to fame is being the roller coaster capital of the world.  Rollers coasters are the only rides in this park, so if you’re not a fan, it’s not worth the trip.  It was an overcast, turned rainy day.  I was standing in line for the Millenium Force.  I was under shelter for a bit, but as I got closer to the front of the line, it started to rain hard.  I watched the cars ascend the track at a vertical pace.  You are not harnessed in; you have a lap bar.  I was seriously doubting whether I wanted to get on this ride.  A vertical ascension with just a lap bar?  Um…not sure.  I have never doubted a ride, but at this moment I was voicing my doubts, recognizing a fear.  Still, I wanted to know what was beyond that ascension.  Where was the drop?  What was going to feed into the adrenaline rush?

I was drenched and cold.  It was my turn.  I stepped into the car, and pulled the lap bar down as far as it could go. It locked me in.  I pushed up on the bar several times, assuring me I wasn’t going anywhere, but the fear remained.  The ride began, and I went up, followed by going straight down.  Then began the adventure of careening through tunnels, around corners, back up (a progressive incline) and down, at well over 90 miles an hour.  The rush was back, and the ride was over in a matter of minutes.  I walked off…completely dry.  I was all smiles, reflecting on what a great ride it was, but my day at the park was also ending.  The line was long; there wasn’t an opportunity to ride it again.

I am looking at the last three Saturdays and Sundays, the last two Monday-Fridays, of my education.  It’s crazy that I’m nearly done!  I don’t think there has been a single moment in my life when I haven’t felt the waves of emotions that I have been hit with this term, this year, this past week and a half.

I began my ride of anticipation, seeking an adrenaline rush to end with smiles a week ago Wednesday.  The ride wasn’t what I envisioned it would be.  It felt more like the small coaster ride in Toon Town at Disneyland; there is a single moment you’re at the top and can see the Sierra Nevadas before they disappear the moment the coaster drops.  I got to see out, but was reigned back in.  This has been my ride for a week.

The next ride I’ve experienced mimics a combination of Space Mountain and the Millenium Force, beginning last Thursday.  From a brief moment of life, I sped into the darkness, unable to see anything but the stars and black “sky” in a vast abyss.  As I exited, I realized I had to finish the last 5,000 words of my thesis/novel.  I spent the entire weekend and Monday in darkness.  I shut out the world, closing in on the dark hours.  By Tuesday, I was preparing for the next ride, and struggling to get 500 words in.  I was around strangers on Wednesday, and felt a need to be with friends instead.  I was on my second day back at the gym, and still walking with Duke every night.  The gym erased the darkness and drowning feeling; I had some clarity.  I wrote Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough.

I got up early Thursday to write some more before I returned to work (first day since the beginning of May).  649 words.  By 9:10am, waiting for my number to be called at the local motor vehicle office, I was anticipating a fear once again: I was not going to finish the story, and get it turned in before midnight.  Especially not with other matters I was dealing with all week, and knowing I had one other assignment due that same night.

I don’t remember what happened (perhaps I simply blocked out life), but I was back to writing at noon.  I took a couple small breaks in the afternoon to wrote some more.  I left work before 5:00, tossed a turkey burger patty in the microwave, added a heaping helping of spinach and shredded carrots to my plate, grabbed a small glass of Chardonnay, and sat at my computer to write.  I wrote for two and a half solid hours.  By 7:25pm, I had 5,040 words, and was on the Millienium Force after the first initial drop.  I took a moment to celebrate with smiles and tears; add in laughter as I looked at Duke and said, “I can’t believe I did it!”  He celebrated with me, wagging his tail, allowing me to give him a big hug.  The first draft of my novel was complete and submitted. I grabbed a special bottle of wine, and visited with some friends for a few hours after.  It was the perfect ending to my week. And…I got to know a little more about Red Nose Day, and told I need to watch “Love Actually.”  (It’s on my list, ladies!!  You’re always welcome over for movie night.)

The ride, and writing, is not over yet!  I’m on a new coaster, a new segment for the next 8 days, working on revisions: from the very beginning to the very end.  This isn’t the coaster ride I have been waiting for, but it’s new as I try to finish up.  There will be new waves of emotions, but I hear my cheering squad, from all over the globe, behind me.  This will be a book many are excited to read.  I am simply excited that I can say I have begun to revise my first draft…after I offer two peer critiques on their final 5k words, and provide two more critiques on our literature research papers.  Still, I’m revising!

If you’re curious about the Millenium Force, check out the coaster video Cedar Point has on their website.  If you’re a coaster fan-this should be on your bucket list.

Have a great weekend!




26 March 2017

The world feels a little different today.  Perhaps it’s because I’m two (long) days from finishing this term.  Maybe it’s due to spring’s arrival and my clothes no longer fit; I’ve had to do some therapy shopping, being mindful of my spending. However, I know I’m still on a roller coaster, and struggle to find a balance while focusing on positives to avoid being torn down.  Buckle up.  This coaster is all over the place, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.  Walls might help.

On Friday, the Indian Student Association celebrated Holi on campus and invited everyone.  It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, and unsure of my future, I thought it might be the last opportunity I had being on campus.  Why not!  I love Indian cuisine and there was some good food.  I appreciate other cultures, and the Indian culture is a prominent one on campus.

I was greeted by students as they smeared colors on my face, arms, hair and clothing (I wore old clothes that were tossed out after).  “Happy Holi!”  Other students did the same.  Waves of color were splashed into the air, falling like dust to cover those nearby.

It only took one person to chant my name, and the large group joined in.  A wall of momentary silence approached like tunnel vision before I only heard the chanting, “Karen, Karen, Karen.”  What was I to do?  I removed my flip flops, took my phone, earbuds, and keys out of my pocket. One student, who had been repeatedly asking me, “Do you have your phone on you?” was thrilled I was going to “fully experience” their festival. Before I could change my mind, both of my hands were grasped and we ran.  We jumped up and into a pool of cold water, sliding in feet first and falling onto our backs.  More colors were reapplied. Somewhere there is video evidence.

It was refreshing.  It was fun.  It was exactly what I needed, and the day continued as I was joined by friends for a wine tasting class, and ending the evening with more wine; some bought after the tasting.

I was out, surrounded by friends who care.  More importantly, I felt safe.  Even at home I feel safe with the doors locked.  However, things tend to become a struggle when I am not respected and I am expected to be a pawn in some game where rules don’t apply.  Last weekend I spent hours on my patio revising and building my two biggest final projects for class.  I was distracted by weeds that plague my lawn.  We had terrible winds early Friday morning and I was greeted by a fallen tree branch and a fence being knocked over. More items to do once I have a week off.

Since I needed physical exercise, I spent some time Saturday morning pulling weeds and thinking about what I was going to write in this post.  Series of events have been steadily increasing all week and by the time friends left Friday night, a new wave of events were set in motion.  As I pulled weeds, I listened to the wind rustle the newly formed leaves.  I listened to the sounds of cooing by annoying birds.  I listened for cars driving by our street.  At the sound of car doors closing and a beep coinciding with a locked vehicle, I would quickly run back into the house, locking the patio door.  If I knew it was safe, I would return to weed pulling, only to repeat the action again and again.

There are three fences marking the territory of the property. While they keep jack rabbits from entering the yard to torment my dog, they do not offer the protection I need for myself and for my well-being.  I am building walls to obtain this protection.

I almost wish I was in Natalie’s shoes.  I left her, in Chapter 5 at the end of this term, hiding in her bathroom. The door is locked and she used her telekinetic powers to “move” some furniture around in her downstairs condo.  As she destroys things that signals her fortitude, she feels safe where I left her.

I should not have to feel like this.  I don’t want to become a prisoner within my four walls.  I should be able to freely work in the backyard without listening to every single sound, prepared to dash back indoors with all doors locked.  This is not healthy for my mental state that is already injured, bruised and abused.  Natalie will get to leave the bathroom in Chapter 6, but I am beginning to question my imprisonment, the walls that exist and ones I have built.  Can concrete walls cushion the impact of mental and emotional abuse?  As I think about all of this, I believe a wall is the only thing that will stop this roller coaster.  This is the most ridiculous and saddest thing to endure.  Rest assured, my walls will match my strength so that I won’t have to face this again.

(Image by Karen Balch.  Some of the colors used in the festival)

Holi 3-24-17