One Giant Ride

May 28, 2008
By Courtney Thomas, Fort Mitchell, KY

One Giant Ride

Life is like a giant theme park. You enter the park excited to jump onto every ride and see what it’s like. It is then when you find some rides you love and others you hate. Growing up, plenty of experiences have tested my definition of what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, just and unjust, good and bad, but at the end of the day every new experience is like a new ride. As I grew older, the classic Cincinnati tradition of summers at King’s Island Amusement Park became a major part of my life. This is strange because many of its rides mirror the same ups and down, loops, twists and turns, thrills and let downs that I have experienced in my own life. Looking back at my life up to this point, I can honestly say I have no regrets. There may have been something I wished to change or something I wished had gone differently, but with every obstacle I have had to overcome, as well as with every perfect moment, I have developed and become more of the individual I always wanted to be. Being nineteen years young, my life is only about to start, but my past has become one of my greatest assets. My tumultuous past has given me the ability to adapt to huge changes in my life because, frankly, I have gone through so many in my short time on Earth. My unsteady past has turned me into a person who is, whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, very unemotional. However, there are still occasions during which I turn into a tempestuous whirlwind. I am the kind of person who understands that in the bigger picture of it all, I will be fine no matter what comes my way. Tough experiences have made me into a being that even my mom looks up to. And finally, my past has taught me one of the most important lessons, that even if I don’t know what I want to be like when I get older, I know what I don’t want to be like.

The Vortex

From the time I was a toddler I have been plagued by change. At the age of two, my parents divorced and I was left to begin this journey of broken relationships. It did not take very long for me to get used to the partial custody way of life, which consists of traveling back and forth from house to house. I always remember my Minnie Mouse suitcase that held my favorite belongings and clothes, the only constant in my life between houses.
As my life approached the drop that I was in for, I was introduced to two people that my parents started dating. I still hear stories about my skepticism of these people preceding the large heartache that was about to push me over the edge, much like on the Vortex where we climbed 120 feet into the air only to be thrown 100 feet to the ground seconds later. This drop epitomizes the remarriage of my parents only a few months apart. The remarriage of both my mother and father was hard for me because I was still very young at this point and I was used to having them all to myself. For the first time in my life, I was faced with a challenge where I learned I couldn’t always get what I wanted. Little did I know at that point in the game, my parents remarrying would be the groundwork for a bittersweet future, in the sense that I would come to despise my step dad yet love my step mom more than I could have ever imagined.

Within the ten-year relationship between my step dad and my mom, I came to distance myself from that side of my family. My step dad’s insane discipline regimen was awful. He would ground me for staying up later than my 8 o’clock bedtime for reading. Being a 7th and 8th grader at this point I felt completely trapped. He would constantly yell at my three sisters and me, and I still remember the times where I had to bring my little sisters into my room because my parents were fighting. It was there where my sisters and I grew an inseparable bond and I became like a third parent to them. Although I loved my sisters very much, being fitted with the burden of parenting my younger siblings in eighth grade was quite heavy. There were many times where I cried myself to sleep. It finally got to the point that I couldn’t take it any more and I sat my mom down and told her I was going to move in with my dad and step mom. It literally broke her heart when I did, but distance was the best thing for me. She grudgingly allowed it.
It was the summer before my freshman year when I was finally all moved into a new house with Dad and Paige. Starting a new school, high school at that, and adapting to a whole new way of life turned out to be the best change ever to wash over me. Paige and I grew so close. She literally has become my mother. Being adopted and coming from a broken home herself, she understood my situation and I have truly never grown to love and appreciate anyone more. She became the most stable person in my life, the one who helped me to become a strong and independent person. She taught me that being independent was something that no one could take away from me no matter how awful my parents acted.

Tomb Raider Expedition

In the back of King’s Island lies a building that remains closed half of the time. Tomb Raider, as the fans affectionately call it, straps you in and gyrates, shakes you up and down, back and forth, inside and out, forcing you to endure longer than usual minutes upside down over caverns spinning out of control. This is what my life had become, a crazy ride spinning all over the place, and, just when you think it has stopped, catapults you backwards and upside down.
I had just started my second year in competitive cheerleading. We would travel all around the east coast competing against the nation’s best and it was the most fun I had had in high school. I practiced with the team for months, never missing a rehearsal or meeting. I worked out with more energy and kept my spirits higher than anyone else on my team or any of the other ones. It was the best week of my life leading up to the first competition- and it was the day before our first competition when I tore my ACL, MCL, and Lateral Meniscus. I was devastated. And what’s worse, I was forced to go into surgery followed by six months of physical therapy. My injury caused me to go into a depression. I refused to go out or hang out with my friends, and I literally cried for a month straight. I felt miserable. It wasn’t until Paige came to me one afternoon and said, “Courtney, go ahead and cry because this is the last night that I am going to let you do it. Starting tomorrow you are going to pull yourself out of this depression because only you can do that. It is time to stop feeling sorry for yourself, get over it and make the best out of the situation you are given.” These words became like fresh air to me. I realized that there was nothing I could do, but to use my energy to get better. Like Tomb Raider which goes forever yet stops sooner than you would expect, my depression abruptly grinded to a halt.

Outer Limits

Unfortunately, although I was over the depression, the worst had only just begun. Hidden between a classic midway ride one could find a bunker carved out in a mock area 51 display. Here lies Outer Limits, formerly known as Flight of Fear. After waiting in line you are strapped into a spaceship and the attendants begin counting down 3…2…1… From zero to sixty in two seconds flat you are thrust into a blinding bright light then out into a dark, empty room where all you can see before you is miles and miles of twisted steel. The tracked lies twisted in a giant ball almost as if it had no order.
Both sets of my parents decided to get divorced yet again. It was in the summer before my senior year and it was nearly cataclysmic. I was happy that my mom and step dad were getting a divorce, but I would never wish what my mom had to go thorough on my worst enemy. Rob fought for every last dime, and since my mom was a stay at home mom, the little she was given was easily expended. He fought dirty and led my mom through almost a year and a half of legal drama that resulted where it was impossible for anyone to come out a winner.
On other side of that grimy table my dad and Paige getting divorced was worse. Paige and I had grown even closer and I was not ready to leave her. However with this divorce Paige would be reduced to legally being just my good friend. The struggle that resulted with this was a tough decision: with whom should I move in- my single mom, my single dad, or Paige? The choice I made was hard for both of parents because I chose Paige. She had become more than a mother to me and had tried her best throughout this entire ordeal to make the transition as smooth on me as possible. While the ride is infamous for its crazy twists and turns, it is nice enough to let you get out on flat ground instead of just dumping you on your head.

The Beast

Deep in the woods of King’s Islands’ back lot remains an enigma 30 years in the making. Once the longest wooden roller coaster in the world, The Beast rocks you like a hurricane as you journey through the woods “escaping The Beast.” But The Beast has a unique feature, different from other roller coasters. When calm is reached, the train then begins a climb up a second hill leading to a ferocious attack from its famed double helix.
After two years of watching my mom’s struggle as a single parent with four children I saw her go from bad to worse. I saw my mother fall from everything that she had once stood for. It was perhaps the darkest hour I have had so far in my nineteen years in existence. My mother committed the darkest deed and oldest sin in the book; she had attempted to commit suicide. It is an awful feeling to realize that your own mother felt that helpless and that neither my sisters nor I could have been a reason enough to live. I again felt like I had to be the parent of my sisters and my mother. She spent two weeks in a psychiatric ward and I thought I had never seen my mom at a lower point. I was sadly mistaken because a little over three months later I received a call from my aunt while I was at school that my mom had been checked into a rehab facility for alcohol and pills. In my mind I couldn’t and still can’t understand why my mom became addicted. After getting out of rehab, she was forced to go back into rehab two more times. Each time I think it will be the calm signaling the end of the ride, but it inevitably leads to more hills and more helixes.

The Scrambler

Separating the Nickelodeon Universe kiddy park and the intense, more daring, adult rides, the Scrambler is not only a representation of the transition from my high school life to college life, but it is a ride that literally scrambles you. In its fast circular speeds the cars spin, but the actually car is spinning within itself. This causes a jerking motion that literally slams you from one side to the other and culminating a force of gravity that smashes you together with the people in your car but keeps you laughing it up the entire time.
Dealing with all of the issues with my mother and starting my first completely independent life as a college student at University of Kentucky, I was bombarded with other issues that effect young adults. Figuring out how to make an easy transition from high school life to college life luckily came effortless to me. I have dealt with the confusing boy issues, which have stressed me out more than I have wanted and the overall issue of learning to balance all of my time with the massive amounts of homework I am given weakly. Although it is a struggle, the struggle is on a much lower scale and something I can most definitely handle. I am still being jolted around, and although it is all very confusing, it is finally the type of ride I can enjoy.
As the sun is setting and the day is through throngs of people start pouring out of the amusement park and heading towards their cars, children become sluggish, teenagers are joyous and adults are just glad the day is over. My time in the amusement park is far form over. I still have many rides left in me and many new endeavors to explore. Several years of ups and downs will soon follow, but with my development thus far I at least have enough insight to better understand with the changes and issues that come my way. I have become a person that has evolved over so much. I am still searching for my soul purpose and what I am going to do with my life, however I do know what I will never be. I will never ever have to worry about money or ever fall into the same path as my mother. I will take her mistakes and better myself from it. It is funny that despite all of the divorce in my life, that I still do believe in love and that it can last forever. All I know is that with every decision I make I will choose to be better because I have seen just how low a person can get. I may not know what the future has in store for me, but rest assured that I will be different form the rest. I can guarantee that my future has something incredible in store for it and only time will tell what will come of it.

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