Volume 4: Theme Parks

I’ve loved living in Florida for the last 24 years. The weather’s almost always warm (except for our few days of winter each year), I’m always close to the beach, and, if I throw a rock, I’m likely to hit one of the many theme parks I live near. That last part is a bit of a stretch, but we have a lot of theme parks within less than an hour drive–four Disney World theme parks (plus two water parks), two (soon to be three) Universal Orlando theme parks (plus one water park), one Sea World theme park (plus one water park), and Legoland to name a few. I say this because I have a long history of going to each of these places. Whenever my family had time on weekends, we would spend the day at one or more of the parks. Most notably, the Disney World parks.

When I was younger, places like Disney World felt wonderful and horrible at the same time. On one hand, I greatly enjoyed going with my family and riding some of the attractions. On the other, there were times where I felt intimidated by everything going on around me. I hated being cramped in large crowds and my hands shot to my ears to mute the sound of the fireworks. There were also the massive rides that I was scared to go on. While I enjoyed tame rides, such as Star Tours or Pirates of the Caribbean, I wouldn’t go near something extreme like Space Mountain or Rockin Roller Coaster. This was mainly because I did not like riding at high speeds, much less at high places in the dark.

Because of these elements, I tried to remain in my comfort zone. However, my parents regularly took me on one or more of those bigger rides. I remember being quiet and timid while waiting in line for attractions such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror. This is mainly because my imagination would get the best of me, which would cause me to think of the worst possible scenario. I would think about the possibility of being stuck at the peak of a roller coaster, falling out of the vehicle, or even crashing in a fiery inferno. I know these outcomes sound ridiculous. But when you are a kid with limited knowledge of how these rides work and the safety mechanics involved, it is easy to let fear get the best of you.

Over time, as we kept coming back to the parks, I grew more accustomed to going on some of the big rides. I figured that my frequent exposure to these attractions made me more accepting of them. They went from places I usually avoided to a sort of rite of passage. Whenever I was with my family or a group of friends, I would promise myself that I would do it once and only go back if I felt like it. This was the case when I went down Summit Plummet for the first and only time during my sister’s 16th birthday. My body was shaking from the speed of the fall, but I was glad I did it.

Today, I seek out most of these rides, truly enjoying the thrill. When I look back now, I’m thankful my parents placed me in these uncomfortable situations. Now, I handle the crowds, enjoy the fireworks, and love all of the rides–especially the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

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