I use roller coasters to express myself
As I strap into the harness with ease, my neck hair tingling with anxiousness, the gears click and the steel wheels roll. Anticipation courses through my veins. I climb higher and higher as all my worries and stresses dissipate into the clear Summer sky. I reach the summit and take in the crisp, cool air: the peace, tranquility, and calm before the impending storm. Just as I catch my breath, I tear down the steep drop, the once soothing air morphing into a violent wind that quenches my thrill-seeking thirst. Weaving through intense elements-inversions, high-speed banking turns, and forceful airtime hills-piercing screams of others intensify the adrenaline that makes a two-minute ride last a lifetime.
Most people use the arts, music, or sports to express themselves; I use roller coasters. A seemingly juvenile phenomenon, roller coasters have been a constant throughout my life. Ever since riding my first roller coaster at four years old, I knew that my thrill-seeking nature would follow me through life; I was absolutely right. As of 2018, I have visited about thirty amusement parks and experienced hundreds of roller coasters, each one satisfying my need for thrills. My childhood was consumed by these steel mountains, as my favorite toys soon became exclusively model roller coasters. Those simplistic plastic toys were sufficient at the time, but as I aged, I found myself wanting more-something that could rival the adrenaline-charged thrills of roller coasters.
On one stifling Summer day when I was 13 years old, my search was finally over. Struck with unending boredom amidst the muggy Tennessee weather, I stayed inside and binged countless roller coaster videos, hypnotized by the car's flow on the immense steel track. Among these videos was something new: a computer-rendered roller coaster. Intrigued, I scavenged the internet in the name of research and finally reached the holy grail of roller coaster enthusiasts: No Limits Roller Coaster Simulation. Knowing that this was used by major coaster manufacturers to design and test projects, I realized that it was more than just computer software; it was the pinnacle of roller coaster design. I saved up and shelled out the coveted forty dollars, an investment that, in retrospect, paid off exponentially. Spending hours designing the ride layout, fine-tuning forces, and testing ride smoothness, I had created my first coaster. I immediately fell in love with No Limits's features: the 3D user-interface, realistic roller coaster physics, and various ride types and styles. That Summer-whenever I wasn't consumed by work or school-I resided in my new happy place, where I felt free to simply be myself for years to come. Ironically enough, it was the turbulent and extreme nature of roller coasters that I found my sweet solace.
Upon entering high school, however, this safe haven became a place of doubt and anxiety. The social struggles of high school alongside my divergent passion intensified my lifelong battle with insecurity and self-esteem issues. From receiving dirty stares when using No Limits to being called weird for what I liked, I was conflicted. For years, this hobby had symbolized blissful escapes from life; But being an insecure sixteen-year-old, the mild insults shattered me. For months I shielded my true self, only using the program alone. Over time, though, I began to question why it even mattered if people didn't like my hobbies. By maturing and understanding the bigger picture, I overcame this irrational insecurity, allowing me to embrace my quirks and not be confined to others' perceptions. The more I understood this, the less I cared about people thinking I'm a roller coaster nerd, because-let's be real-that's my truth. Roller coasters, previously an escape from reality, now represent my newfound zest for life. So as I venture off to college with my roller coaster affinity, I mark a point in my life where I'm finally secure in my own skin, ready to see the world through a new lens.