Bravery, in Theme Parks and in Life

When Paul and I started planning a long-weekend getaway to Wildwood, New Jersey, he suggested we go on this:

I asked if he was joking. He wasn’t. “I’ve never had any desire to go on this before, but I think it would be fun if we’d do it together,” he said.

Nothing says “fun” like dangling 100 feet above Morey’s Piers with your significant other, right?

I said I’d have to see it in person and make a game-day decision, but I was just buying time. I’d seen these types of rides before. Some classmates went on one during our high-school senior-class trip. My thoughts at the time? To borrow the words I overheard from a woman watching the Wildwood Skycoaster in action, “You’d have to be out of your freaking mind.”

She was standing nearby when we got to the first pier off the boardwalk on Saturday afternoon. We’d arrived just in time to see a lone middle-schooler being hoisted up to the top of the tower. “Look!” Paul said. “It’s a little girl! By herself! If she can do it, you can, too!”

I watched her tip from side to side as the pulley lifted her up. I saw her freefall for a moment before the cord pulled taut and sent her swinging high over the sand next to the pier. I felt nauseous.  “No way,” I said. “Not going to happen.”

Paul dropped it, and we went about our day. But, the Skycoaster loomed in the back of my mind. We should go on at least one ride, I thought. And I bet that one would be fun.

Meanwhile, we ate our way down the boardwalk—Mack’s pizza! Olympic Flame gyros!—then decided to take a breather at Good Night Irene’s a few blocks away.

As we chatted over beers at the outdoor bar, we realized the next day would be the 15th—eight months since I’d decided knowing is better than not knowing and told Paul how I felt.

I realized that the feeling I’d had earlier while imagining myself on the Skycoaster resembled the one I had when I’d been about to hit “send” on the email I typed to Paul last November, asking if he’d have time after work to grab a drink. In both situations, I got the fight-or-flight feeling: aching stomach, shaking hands, general dread. When you’re trying to do something that scares you, anticipating it is often the worst part. The sense of victory you get after doing it, however, makes it all worthwhile.

I changed my mind about the Skycoaster. We finished our drinks and marched the mile or so back to the first pier. I thought of nothing but getting to the ticket counter, and once we’d gotten there and paid, there was no turning back. The nervous feeling returned, but I had a brand new perspective.

Oddly enough, once we were harnessed and hooked to the wire that would pull us up, Paul, the mastermind behind this whole operation, started to panic. “Why did I think this was a good idea?” he yelled, as we rose higher and higher above the now brightly lit nighttime boardwalk. “It’s okay, look at the view! This will be fun! This will be fun!” I repeated.

And it was. The whole thing was over in a matter of minutes, and I was so focused on calming Paul that I forgot to be scared. The falling sensation lasted just a second or two, and I had a great reason to scream my head off—you can’t do that just any day. And, we got a great photo out of it:


About Meghan Loftus
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