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Life Lessons From The Loch Ness Monster
This is an editorial I wrote for my summer internship at East Penn Publishing.
My name is David Adams Amerman. I'm a rising senior at Penn State studying journalism, English and theatre, I've been interning with the Parkland Press and Northwestern Press newspapers this summer and, like most people with a pulse, I've been known to enjoy long walks on the beach.
I can also tell you with utmost sincerity that, for most of my life, I have been a wimp.
I can't say with a shred of honesty that I've ever taken a substantial risk in my life.
I've taken stock of my fears and inhibitions and diligently made a point to avoid any path containing such spooky obstacles under the impression there was nothing wrong with taking the safe route.
After all, what's wrong with safety? Feeling secure isn't exactly the most putrescent notion ever conceived of, right?
That's what I thought until one early July morning when I was catching up on my television obsession, "Breaking Bad," to prepare for the upcoming season premiere.
I was watching a scene where main character Jesse Pinkman comes to terms with his questionable life choices in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and one line of dialogue in particular left me thinking: "If you just do stuff and nothing happens, what's it all mean? What's the point?"
The poignancy of just that one piece of dialogue was downright indelible. What good was it doing me to take the easy road through life if I wasn't getting anything worthwhile out of it?
It was that o'dark hundred introspection that inspired me to take the Pinkman challenge and do something meaningful, something that would make me think of myself as less of a human wasteland.
I thought about which of my fears I might want to conquer and, remembering an upcoming Virginia trip with friends to Busch Gardens, I decided to challenge my fear of heights and of looping roller coasters by taking on Busch Gardens' Loch Ness Monster.
Though I've been constantly informed roller coasters are structurally sound and safe to ride, the combination of Jimmy Stewart-esque vertigo and the idea that a single loose bolt could spell catastrophe at any given time has kept me close to the ground at amusement parks for always and eternity thus far.
And, with a lift hill of 130 feet and featuring two interlocking loops, Loch Ness Monster was a phobia double whammy for me. Heck, just looking at the coaster's Wikipedia article gave me heart murmurs.
But on July 15, there I was: willingly waltzing into the steely yellow bowels of the Scottish beast with my happy-go-lucky coaster fanatic compadre, Phil. Though Phil repeatedly attempted to assure me of Loch Ness Monster's timidity in comparison to taller and loopier rides, I was already in panic mode by the time I had reached the turnstile.
Phil and my other friends can tell you I have a slightly irritating habit of singing when I'm scared. The first time I rode Thunderhawk, an 80-foot wooden coaster in Dorney Park, I clenched my eyes so tight my eyelashes touched my lips and I sang the Meow Mix theme song until we had finished climbing up the lift hill.
Therefore, given the extra 50 feet in lift hill height and two loops, I was already muttering freshly listened-to Alice in Chains songs with a bad Eddie Vedder voice as I stood in line, eliciting bewildered looks from the thrill-seeking vessels of nonchalance around me. There was still time to back out. I could just cite a faux queasiness and tiptoe away from the impending horrors, but I was not about to disappoint me, my friend or Jesse Pinkman.
After roughly 10 minutes of stomach-gurgling anticipation, the time had come for me to strap in tight to the tri-tone colored train. Vibrating, queasy and reluctant as can be, my fears had come to fruition as the train began to climb the lift hill. The ominous metal clanging of the chain's ascension brought forth images of nuts and bolts coming loose, conjuring images of spiraling blue and red police lights, body bags and sad relatives.
So, like a third grader caught in class, I made silent and permanent eye contact with the floor of the roller coaster train. With one irrational fear already in mind, the last thing I needed at this point was that morbid sense of acrophobia. Finally, we reached the peak, where I was forced to take a lasting glance with fluttering eyelids at the 114-foot drop before my teary-eyed, mouth agape 'WAAAUUUUGGGGHHHHH!' of terror toward the murky Virginian Rhine River below.
Sweaty palms, shaking limbs and momentary visions of the grim reaper notwithstanding, I survived.
The first scary element was complete, but I still had two more extra-sticky Band-Aids to rip off my hairy leg before it was over: the two interlocking loops. I thought to prepare myself for a second round of horrors comparable to the lift hill, but I didn't have enough time.
You see, the thing about roller coasters is they rarely ever stop or go backwards. Much like life, roller coasters tend to ascribe to consistently forward motion. Backpedaling, at least in the case of the Loch Ness Monster, would be counterproductive.
With this bite-size epiphany lodged in my cerebellum, the interlocking loops weren't so scary anymore. In fact, they were veritably enjoyable. For the first time in my life, I was able to open my eyes, become part of the thrill-seeking experience and relish the salty afternoon air as it roared by like a fleet of yellow Ferraris on the interstate.
And then it was over. My fears slightly conquered and my eyes still tearing from the 60 mile an hour speeds, I peppily floated over to the ride photo booth and looked at the post-loop expression they had captured: a squashed duo of familiar fearfulness and wonder for having discovered something previously alien. And, to me, that jubilance I felt from plumbing the previously unknown might very well have been the best possible thing I could have experienced to prepare myself for life after college.
I still have no clue what the future has in store for me once my graduation cap comes fluttering down to earth two semesters from now. I have ambitions of becoming a creative writer of some sort, but such an occupation doesn't really provide clear as crystal certainty as far as financial stability and job safety.
And you know what? That's fine by me. It's high time I take the exit off the safe route and go exploring. After all, what good are ambitions if we don't ever act on them? The worst thing I could possibly do for my future is deny myself the chance of achieving a lofty goal by letting it become a pipe dream. So what if it takes work and determination to become a comedy writer or a screenwriter? I can do it. It's a worthwhile pursuit.
As far as I'm concerned, if I can defeat the Loch Ness Monster and retain enough lucidity to write an overlong account of the situation, then pursuing my dreams should be about as unnerving as riding Thunderhawk.