The ride IS your life!

I did it.
Faced the fears.
Silenced the excuses.

By telling my daughter that today would be the day, I had given myself no way out. The next generation was watching and learning.

It only took five minutes to walk there. We went up one escalator, then two flights of stairs.
“If the line is too long, we don’t have time to wait” I said (We still needed to grab lunch before our afternoon work commitment.) We reached the ticket booth and I was relieved to see rows and rows of people waiting their turns. We could leave.
“One second” my husband said. He was standing in front of a sign that read SKIP THE LINE. Uh Oh. Turns out that, for a fee (namely 520 Japanese yen; about $5 each), we could earn VIP status and walk right up to Thunder Dolphin, the tallest, biggest, scariest roller coaster I’d ever seen (ranked 8th tallest in the world). I had visited Japan three years in a row and always stayed in the same area, a short distance from this amusement park and this monster roller coaster. So far the beast had always stared me down but now, armed with my ticket, I was minutes away from stepping into its jaws and showing it what I was made of.
We sat in the very first row (another VIP “perk”) and I immediately fastened the seat belt and tightened it as much as I could. The attendant insisted I secure my open toed sandals to my feet with two big green rubber bands. That should tell you something! She lowered the security bar. I pulled it closer yet then pushed to test it. I took a deep breath, winked at my husband, held on to the metal bar in front of me and prepared for the unknown.

Thunder Dolphin roller coaster Tokyo Dome

The ascent to the highest point of 260 feet took only seconds. We reached the tipping point, and then we fell, and fell, and fell some more. It was beyond frightening and exhilarating and even disconcerting to feel the 4.4 G-force pressure on my jaws and my neck. I hadn’t expected the flapping lips and the taught skin. We whizzed by at speeds of 80 miles/hour and the worst (or was it the best?) was over with quickly. I forced myself to keep my eyes open; I didn’t want to miss a thing. I laughed; I screamed; I raised my arms up; I shook my fists in the air.
“We’re doing it!” I hollered.

Burton Richardson and Sarah Badat Richardson on Thunder Dolphin roller coaster

Before we knew it, the ride ended. The car stopped in front of the eager faces of the next customers.
We stepped out and walked away on slightly wobbly legs. We stopped to purchase the photos: I needed tangible proof that I had come, I had seen, I had conquered.
The victory had only required that I show up, buckle up and go along for the ride. Once we were in motion, no amount of fussing would have gotten me out of there. I could enjoy or be miserable; I could laugh or cry; my choice.

Isn’t Life a roller coaster?

Ups and Downs. Twists and bends. Unknowns at every corner and a whole bunch of strangers alongside you.
You are handed free tickets, courtesy of your parents.
You’re taught a few basics and briefed minimally on safety and then you’re on your own.
You don’t know where you’re going really but you know it won’t last forever so you have a choice to make.
Will you go afraid? Will you close your eyes shut and miss out on everything?
Or will you do your best to keep your eyes open and enjoy the adventure no matter what?

Sometimes adrenaline will make you shrink; you’ll curl up in a little ball and hold on with white knuckles. Sometimes courage will flood your entire body and you will be overcome with ecstasy.

Though you may feel like you’re going in circles, you never end up in the same place.

You never end up the same.

You can be mad and find it too unfair or you can find the joy in the craziness of it all.
Going back is impossible. Time will propel you forward…
… Until time itself stops.

No more ups.
No more downs.
No more twists and bends.
No more Life.

Just a flat line.

Sarah Badat Richardson in front of Thunder Dolphin roller coaster
Proud and relieved to have survived this ride!

I’m glad I went today. I’m proud of myself. My daughter saw her mother overcome fear, take a chance and come out on the other side with a big grin on her face.
Thunder Dolphin may have lasted only a few minutes but what we’ve learned from it will stay with us forever.

I stand a little taller, eager to go forward on the ride that is Life.


Click here to see a video of the ride.

“You must do the things you think you cannot do” Eleanor Roosevelt

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