Saturday, August 20, 20050 Comments
The plane is going to crash I just know it. I’m going to get strip searched at the airport and hit by a double-decker bus on the way to my residence. If I’m lucky to make it that far, I’ll probably be pick-pocketed or starve to death because I don’t like the food. I’ve heard that there is a lot of fried food in England and let me tell you-- fried food and I get along about as well as spicy tacos and irritable bowel syndrome. For months, I have been convinced that my ashes are going to be shipped home in a little pewter box with the name “Lauren” scrolled on it in excessively fancy lettering. Quite frankly, I’m terrified to go to England in the fall. So why do we do things that frighten us even though doing them isn’t essential to our existence? Why the hell am I going to London, England for three and a half months if it scares me so much?
This summer, I conquered one of my long time fears: roller coasters. It wasn’t easy. Even though roller coasters are only three to four g’s for a few minutes, the thought of being flung down a steep metal hill in a brightly coloured metal box seemed like a bad idea. Loads of things could go wrong. The ride could suddenly malfunction mid-loop-de-loop and leave me stranded. I could have a heart attack (although I don’t have any heart problems, so that’s unlikely, I guess.) Or worse, my car could simply unclench itself from its rails and fall to the puny little earth below like a dead spider that has been crushed by a shoe. I could get whiplash too, but at least then I’d be alive to sue.
Despite my better judgment, I waited in line for an hour for “Dragon Fire,” a violently purple roller coaster with a mean looking dragon on the front of it. Not only was it violently purple, but it also had not one, but two loop-de-loops. As I stood in line I felt my stomach start to clench. My hands were shaking and I was pretty sure that even if I didn’t puke on the ride, I was going to do it in this long, winding line. A little voice in the back of my skull whined, “Get out while you still can, you idiot!” I could have pushed through the throngs of people who were beginning to cue up beside me and not go on the ride. But I didn’t. I went on that rickety ride and you know what? I felt good afterwards. I think I nearly barfed on the second loop, but I felt a lot better when I stepped out of the roller coaster car. Did I mention I went on three more roller coasters after that? And each time I was fine.
Roller coasters are the ultimate way to lose control. You are literally strapped into a seat and just like that you say good-bye to control over anything that might happen in the next three minutes. Being helpless is a scary feeling. For me, there is security in having control over everything. I make lists, I have four calendars and I enjoy writing everything down in my day timer. Being prepared for absolutely every eventuality makes me feel safe. Sometimes there is no way to prepare yourself for what may happen. Sometimes, it is far better to let go.
In England, I won’t be able to fit everything that happens to me neatly into my organizer. I don’t know whom I’ll meet or what I’ll see and do; scary things will happen. At the very least I’m going to get homesick for my boyfriend and my family and friends. But like riding “Dragon Fire,” flying to England will make me more capable than I ever was.
We do scary things so that we can feel more in control of our lives. Being completely free of control even for three minutes makes us feel like the world is ours because we have faced our fear. So why the hell am I going to England? I’m going because I’m afraid of letting go and this is the best way to do it. I’m facing all kinds of paranoias and when (if) I come home I’m going to be the same person, but stronger. I can’t control whether or not my plane crashes; I don’t know that I’m going to step off the curb and get hit by a double-decker bus, but you can bet I’ll be wearing clean underwear.