Sitting in the front row of a cart heading up to the peak of a roller coaster, I feel my head being pushed against the headrest as the incline increases. I dig my feet into the bottom of the cart as if it will slow down the drop that should be coming any second.
My breathing slows but my heart rate speeds up as the seconds-long ride up the curve feels like minutes as the anticipation builds. I can see the sky from an unusual angle and focus, I’m completely disconnected from everyone on the ground below me.
I’m terrified and excited, and I feel a pit in my stomach and a lightness in my head both growing exponentially.
I redirect my focus because the peak is now right in front of me. I momentarily prepare for the adrenaline rush that I live for.
I’ve always felt the need to be in control of every aspect of my life. I’ve never been able to let classmates do their own work in group projects. I also can only cook alone; having someone help only means I’ll be watching every move over their shoulder the entire time. I believe there are right and wrong ways to do everything, and I’d rather do something myself to get it done the way I deem correct.
“I’m right, you’re wrong.”
My family loves to use this phrase to describe me and my grandmother, who certainly passed her type-A personality on to me. Ouch. It comes off rather harsh, even as a joke, but they’re not entirely wrong.
I know this probably isn’t the healthiest way to live every day and it does bug me and my close friends and family rather often, but I struggle to relax my control freak tendencies. The only time I loosen my grip of control is when I experience true adrenaline, usually from the intensity of extreme rides at amusement parks.
My personality-contrasting desire for thrill also comes from my family. Since childhood, my family vacations have usually involved some sort of amusement park trip. It could be the ride piers on the Wildwoods Boardwalk, where I learned to love classic wooden roller coasters, like The Great White, or even Universal Studios Florida Theme Park, where some of my favorite coasters are, like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Revenge of the Mummy.
My mom, sister and I always ride the rollercoasters together while my dad plays the role of the self-proclaimed bag holder. We’ve been on some of the most famous coasters in the United States, like the recently opened VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Millennium Force at Cedar Point and, of course, Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure.
I love to sit at the front when the lines aren’t too long, even when my family is too scared of a particularly intimidating ride. Seeing how high I am and looking down at an insane drop from the top of a peak with the perfect view makes each ride more thrilling, and I know I get to be the first person in the group to feel the rush.
It seems counterintuitive to be obsessed with both control and adrenaline, but putting myself in situations where I have to let go of my control allows me to feel free from the unnecessary stress I put on myself. For a couple of minutes, I get to forget about reality, but at the same time, I feel like the most real version of myself with my adrenaline pumping.
The cart rolls down the peak and reaches extraordinary speeds that feel brand new every time I experience them. Cutting through the air, I don’t usually scream like the other riders next to me, but I smile and close my eyes, appreciating the entirety of the thrill. The ride will end soon, usually only lasting under two minutes.
It’s my chance to let go. The adrenaline takes over, and I feel free from any other worry I may have had. I have no control of speed, place or feeling, and I love it.