Towards to end of my bridge year, every expert, friend, Peace Corps volunteer, and staff member warned the fellows that life after this, to say the least, would be a “roller-coaster”. By that, they meant that there would be a fair share of ups, downs, loops, side spins, twirls, jerks, and bumps. The description of a roller-coaster and the description of my bridge year, coupled with my re-entry, seemed to match up almost identically. It’s safe to say by now that they were right. Unfortunately for me, I had never been a very big fan of roller-coasters.
On Sunday I made the decision to face yet another fear: amusement park rides—the big ones. I’m talking some of the biggest, scariest, and steepest in all of the mid-west. There isn’t much to do here, so trust me when I say that these coasters are the real deal. And I couldn’t have been more against the idea—at first.
I came into the park with a deep, sickening gut feeling, wobbly legs, and a spinning head. I just couldn’t shake it. Everywhere I turned there was screaming, metal screeching, and the sounds of wheels hard-pressed against solid steel at sixty-plus miles an hour. I passed one by one, shaking my head in dismay until a member of my group nudged me with an elbow.
“Roll the dice,” he said. “Take a chance; you can do this.”
Something familiar rang in the back of my head. Here I was, almost a year after hiking on the back of the biggest adventure of my young life and feeling the same feeling. Things had come full circle faster than I felt like I could ever process them. Change, relationships, new language, culture, and life had all taken a toll on the old fear and turned it into new gusto. So where was this bravery? I remember clearly overcoming and facing this same gut-wrenching, brain-tugging vortex of emotion. And I remember winning against it. The real roller-coaster was not in this amusement park, it was in the Global Citizen Year that I worked so hard to achieve. I HAD taken a chance, I did get off the ride alive, and when I turned back to look at what I’d done, the drops and twists from the ride I jumped onto in September never overlooked the pride and dignity I gained from getting off. There was no reason that anything should stop me now, especially not an amusement park ride on my home turf.
I smiled at this realization and looked up to the friend on my shoulder. I was in line before I knew it and everything familiar came sweeping back to me. Waiting in line was like waiting to take off on my first flight, boarding the car was like landing in a new country, the exhilaration of the up, and the terror of the down described to the point—in a shorter amount of time—what it was like to face this past year. And in a short minute the ride was over with only a memory and a swelling of great pride to turn around and look back on. But I couldn’t have been happier. Here I was, bringing the year of my life full-circle, facing the tough swirl and change of both a roller-coaster of life on a bridge year, as well as the literal rides at parks. And I didn’t stop at one real ride; I rode all of them in the park. And I won’t stop here; I will continue to find life’s greatest adventures because I know that when I look back, I will come to find how much there is to love about a life of roller-coasters. It was worth it then, and it’s worth it now.