I was in the middle of a ride. Nothing unusual happened. It was just a normal roller coaster ride. But something in me suddenly decided that I was through with roller coasters.
I was done. Finished. I felt oddly relieved.
It was 14 years ago. I had taken an ex-girlfriend to Orlando to visit Disney World and Universal Studios. We were on a roller coaster at Universal. I can put myself back into that moment with absolute clarity. Time suddenly slowed for me. It was as though I withdrew into myself for a moment.
I wasn’t scared or alarmed by anything. There was absolutely nothing that triggered it. I just knew that I didn’t want to ride that sort of ride anymore. I had always loved roller coasters, but I suddenly knew — in a flash — that I was done.
I had another moment like that today. I don’t know what triggered it. I have no idea why something inside me changed. But as I thought about something which I’ve passionately wanted for years, I suddenly knew that I didn’t want it anymore.
For years, I had been on a roller coaster that someone else controlled. And I suddenly didn’t want to ride that roller coaster anymore. I was finished. And I felt relieved.
In the 14 years since that day on the roller coaster at Universal, I have never once felt an interest in a roller coaster again. If I got onto one today, I wouldn’t feel fear or dread. That’s not it. The feeling would be simple disinterest.
If I rode a roller coaster today, I think I’d feel like a disembodied observer, as though I wasn’t really there.
When I think about my odd little experience today, I feel the same way. It’s almost as though it wasn’t me making a decision. It was just a realization that something I had wanted with all my heart and soul wasn’t something I wanted anymore.
Have you ever seen the Broadway musical, “Wicked”? I’ve never been a fan of musicals, but I loved that one. (It just so happened that the ex-girlfriend with whom I was on the roller coaster introduced me to “Wicked” as her favorite musical.)
In this retelling of “The Wizard of Oz” — from the point of view of the witch instead of the usual heroes — Elphaba has wanted desperately to be with the wonderful wizard and become his partner. It had been her great dream, but she had been thwarted. She finally reached a decision about something and was ready to reveal it to her friend Glinda.
Glinda pleaded with her to apologize for something that Elphaba had done.
“You can still be with the Wizard,” Glinda sings to her, “what you’ve worked and waited for. You can have all you ever wanted.”
“I know,” Elphaba responds. “But I don’t want it. No, I can’t want it anymore. Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game.”
And with this, it’s clear that Elphaba is no longer going to beg or plead for what she wants. She’s going to blaze a different trail entirely.
“I think I’ll try defying gravity,” she sings emotionally, “and you can’t pull me down!”
(Listen to the words of the song from the musical’s soundtrack. They’re powerful.)
That’s the way I felt today. I had no thoughts about whether I could or couldn’t have what I had so passionately wanted. I simply didn’t want it anymore. Something had “changed within me.”
When something like that changes in your heart, everything looks different. You can see someone in an entirely different way. You can question why you had ever been willing to do the things you’d thought you’d to do win your goal.
The epiphany can be life-changing. It can be like being freed from a spell which had held you in its tight grip.
I don’t know what the future holds for me. I don’t know how getting off this particular roller coaster might change my life. I just know I’m no longer playing a game that I couldn’t possibly win.
In my own way, I’m going to try defying gravity — and hope it leads me to something much better than what I wanted with all my heart until today.