It's early in the morning. But it isn't cold or damp outside like it would be in Washington. It's California. And it is our Nelson Family Vacation -1991. I eat a muffin and juice for breakfast and then take my Dramamine. My stomach is already twisting in circles and we haven't even left the hotel room to go to Magic Mountain. I am scared to death, but I know I can't chicken out. I am the fifth out of six children, and in a family like mine- saving face is everything.
There it is. The Viper. It is huge. It is red. And it is the biggest Roller Coaster I have ever seen.
Standing in line is like being tortured. I have to watch it scream and loop past me over and over as I wait for my turn.
And then it is my turn. My stomach drops. I look to my big brothers whose faces glow with excitement. Even my little sister appears ecstatic. Am I the only one scared to death right now? The belts lock. The bar comes down. Is this really going to hold me in place???
And up we go. Slowly I feel the pull of the cars ahead as we make the first climb. It is moving so slowly. Is this to build suspense? Or to fool me into placidity? Is it to give me time to rethink this terrible decision and beg to be let off? No. I am too high now. There is no way off this ride. I tell myself this is fun. After all, people are smiling... aren't they? We are close to the top. I can barely see my parents below.
And then the drop.
Lurching over the top of the small mountain the ride takes off. My stomach is in my throat. My heart is beating out of control. We are racing down the track. As soon as we recover from the drop I am pulled around a corner. Suddenly I am filled with excitement! This IS fun! I lift my arms from their death grip on the bar to extend them over my head. I start to smile. And then it happens. Suddenly I am upside down. My bearings are lost. My head is spinning. I am lifting off of my seat. The only thing connecting me to this planet is centrifugal force. (or is it centripetal force?? I must have been asleep in Physics the day we talked about this) I can hardly comprehend that I am upside down before I am swept into my next loop. Adrenaline is rushing through me. I think I want to scream with excitement. Or is it terror? Either way, nothing escapes my mouth. It is a giant hollow "O". My stomach continues to twist. I loose all frame of reference. I have no idea which way is up and which way is down or where on earth I will land in the end.
And despite my horror. Despite the suppression of throw up. Despite the unknown. I am enjoying myself.
I can see the last turn up ahead. I feel the machine contract and break as we come to slow down. I try to assess my feelings. Relief? Disappointment? Shock?
When we exit the ride I notice eager faces getting on for the next spin. I am wobbly. My heart is pounding. My brothers are cheering and high-fiving. My little sister is proudly boasting her lack of fear. Everyone is having the time of their lives. The fear has worn off. The more steps I take from the ride the more I convince myself it really wasn't so bad. By the time we rejoin my parents I find myself echoing my siblings in the desire to "do it again!"
Here I am- it is raining outside. It is definitely not California. I am not 12 years old. But all of those feelings are here.
These past few years have been a Roller Coaster that puts The Viper at Magic Mountain to shame. Just like that little girl had no idea what she was getting into- I was naive. I had no idea it would be this kind of a struggle to get into PA School. I had no idea I would be slowly pulled up a track for more than a year of prerequisites. I had no idea that the top would feel so high and so far from where we had begun and that the rush of the fall would be so intense. It was out of my control. I relied on the Centrifugal Force of Faith to keep me hanging on. There were moments that I lifted my arms and thought the ride was going just where I wanted it to. And there were other times that I just had to rely on a Nelson's desire to "save face." Convincing myself that this was a fun adventure. For over 2 years I have not known which way was up and which way was down. I have literally just been along for the ride....
But today, I think we pulled up to the station. I think the bar is being lifted and I am being released.
JT just got accepted to the University of Washington!!!
This is it. The ride has ended. The confusion. The unknown. The stress. The disappointment. The Hope. It has all slid into place and here we are.
Did it go by fast? As I begin to step away from this process will I just remember it as an amazing experience where our family grew closer? Will I think just about the fun parts where my hands were in the air? It has been up and down and up and down for as long as I can remember. And yet all I can do is smile and join in on the High Fives!
WE DID IT!!!
The ironic part is... it really is just the beginning. Now he gets to go through the grueling life of a student in PA school! So, I guess it is just like Magic Mountain. We are already begging to "do it again!"