When I was younger, I was terrified of roller coasters. Steep drops, high speeds, twisting corkscrews, and tortuous loops had me standing near the ride’s exit instead of in line with the rest of my thrill-seeking family. Eventually, I was coerced into getting in line for the steel behemoth called Goliath. My family and I were visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain, a theme park in Southern California. Earlier that day, with a kick of adrenaline coursing through my veins, I strapped into my first upside-down roller coaster, a modest and simple single loop ride. Now, it was as if I was ditching my roller coaster tricycle, skipping the training wheels, and hopping onto a 150cc dirt bike.
The Goliath has a 255 foot drop and accelerates to speeds of 85 miles per hour. For a short period of time after its grand opening, the Goliath was the fastest and tallest roller coaster in the world. The other ride I went on earlier was plain in comparison, nothing special. I bravely got in line for the Goliath with my dad, feeling confident and excited for a new challenge. The thrills the ride offered were appealing to just about everyone though, and so the line was long enough to give me a couple of hours to think. I watched over and over as the carriage climbed the massive slope, and then dropped in a near freefall at incredible speeds. The more I watched, the more I was filled with trepidation.
As we got closer and closer to the front of the line, I decided I didn’t want to go on the ride anymore. There was no way I was going get onto this metal monster, which was just waiting to hold me in its steel grip. I told my dad that I didn’t want to ride anymore and I was getting out of line. He tried to convince me to stay with him; I had already waited so long in line. Apparently, I was well-aware of the sunken cost fallacy. I told him it didn’t matter. I was leaving. He stopped me and pointed to the people getting off the ride. He told me to look at how happy they were; none of them looked frightened, and no one was hurt or crying. This was apparently convincing enough, and I boarded the train, screamed down the precipitous track, and was raring for more adventures after the ride was over. I think that that experience taught me a valuable lesson that was reinforced later in life and has allowed me to persevere through some of life’s challenges – things aren’t always as bad as they seem initially, and it helps to just think of how you felt after it was all over.
This same principle also held true when I was wrestling. Practice often felt brutal; wind sprints until we were breathless and more for good measure, push-ups until we would collapse under our own body weight, squats while carrying the weight of a teammate on our back, and more, making the walls themselves sweat and the floor a slipping hazard. Sometimes I would feel like my lungs were going to collapse or my heart was going to burst, but as soon as it was over, I felt fine. I would think back, ten minutes later, and realize that it wasn’t so bad. It could have been worse, and most importantly, it ended. Now, whenever something feels difficult, I try to make myself realize that it will eventually end and won’t seem so hard once it’s over.
This perspective can be summed up by the oft-used adage, “everything is relative”. Since I’ve moved to Santa Barbara, I’ve noticed I will complain that it’s hot when it’s 80o F outside and cold any time that it’s below 50o F. While growing up, these extremes were shifted by about 20o F each. And there are far worse extremes than those I’ve faced. My reaction to these extremes is often dictated by my own experiences and environment. This is as true for weather as it is for social pressures and stresses. I think it’s useful to consider the situations you’ve faced and the situations others have faced before acting. This holistic evaluation is the best way to handle tough situations rationally without causing more stress and hardship.
Whether it’s a roller coaster, physical activity, or environmental stresses and pressure, it’s easy to get caught up in the daunting climbs, sharp turns, and challenging loops. However, it’s important to think ahead and consider what you and others have done before. While there are hardships that may actually be insurmountable, most of our daily complaints about school, work, or home are often not terrible in comparison. Next time something seems stressful, try to remember to reflect on it when it’s all over, and maybe you’ll see it wasn’t as bad as you originally thought.