On Will Smith, Rollercoasters, and Dr. Seuss
by Adam Abbas
I turned 18 last week. Other than now being able to have a legitimate answer when people ask if there are any adults at Kinet-X, it was pretty anticlimactic. But because of all of the societal stress placed on this whole coming-of-age, being an adult thing, it's pretty difficult not to be a little reminiscent.
In the 5th grade, my teacher posted a quote on the wall on our very last day. It was a Dr. Seuss quote, and one I'm sure many of you are familiar with.
"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
We'll get back to that. But first, I want everyone to watch this video, titled "Will Smith - Facing Your Fears". It's a fantastic watch, and kind of warped the way I lived my life.
Now I've never went skydiving but I absolutely love rollercoasters. The higher it goes, the more loops it has, the better. Most rollercoasters start off the same way, a slow and steady climb straight upwards. I remember my younger self sitting there, as we inched closer and closer to the peak, wondering how on Earth I could've thought this was a good idea. I convinced myself I was going to die. Then I'd look to the side, see how far up we were, and immediately start praying. When we were at the very top, my heart would skip a beat. And then we'd fall.
And just like Will Smith described, the feeling was absolute bliss. My favorite thing he says was "the point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear." Some people scream when they ride rollercoasters. Other people close their eyes, some people curse. I laugh. If you're ever on a rollercoaster with me, all you're going to hear from my seat is loud, continuous, maniacal laughter. Maybe I'm a sociopath, I don't know. But I do know that once I get past that drop, I start having the time of my life.
Now, conveniently, I was at Six Flags just the other day. My favorite rollercoaster there is Bizarro, where I think you end up upside down like 7 times. And just like I described, we started off with a steady descent upwards. But this time, it was different. I wasn't clinging to my seat, or praying for my life, and I had my eyes wide open. Because I knew what was on the other side, and I knew that I couldn't get there without this climb. In a way, that climb up was starting to become my favorite part. And just like I knew would happen, once the ride started, I didn't stop laughing until we stopped.
I guess I can refer to my entire life up until now as my “childhood” now (wow this is weird). My childhood was completely riddled with fear. I used to laugh about how I had the confidence of a peanut, but I wasn’t entirely kidding. I had low self-esteem, awkward social skills and I lacked any sense of spontaneity. I never got to experience those feelings of bliss, because I’d always back out while we were still getting to the peak.
Through high school that slowly started to change (I’m hoping that was obvious by the fact that I’m sending this out to a mailing list for the company I’m a co-founder of). I gradually learned to fight that pit in my stomach that always popped up when a difficult situation presented itself. I spent a chunk of sophomore year and all of junior year exercising and eating right, trying to build up my self-confidence. I joined the wrestling team! We’ve talked about rollercoasters and skydiving, but here’s a pretty mundane example. When my first season ended, and I became the captain of our team, I set a goal to do everything I could to be the best wrestler I could be. I wanted to be the best wrestler, but to do that I’d have to work my tail off. It seems pretty obvious that once I did do so though, things would be easy – because I’d be the best. The work we put in towards our goals is just our climb to the top of our rollercoaster, because once it’s done, we can enjoy the absolute bliss in the rewards we’ve earned. That’s something I wish I’d realized sooner. So I spent all summer balancing workouts, an athlete’s diet, Kinet-X, and also trying to like, sleep and stuff. And I did a great job. I got to season and things were looking amazing. I’d reached the peak right? I’d put in all the work and now it was time to sit back and enjoy the ride… right?
On November 18th, 2017, at a wrestling tournament, my left forearm snapped in two. It felt like all of that work went towards nothing. I got to the top, and just rolled back down. Things started to lose any sense of meaning or purpose. I lost any satisfaction I got from achieving things, connections with friends and family or even simple things like reading or binge watching my favorite shows. I spent a large chunk of senior year fighting depression and anxiety.
Okay let’s tie everything together.
First off, the Dr. Seuss might not make any sense yet, because nothing had “happened” for me to smile about. I didn’t get to actually perform and finish the way I wanted to so while I was crying, I couldn’t exactly look on the bright side. Almost there, I promise.
Second, we’ve established that the work I put in was just the climb to the point of “minimum fear.” That while things didn’t work out the way they should’ve, the idea was the enjoyable part supposedly came after the struggle.
Third, the last time I rode a rollercoaster, my favorite part was just getting to the top to start the entire ride.
I spent a lot of time scared to be motivated, because the fear of putting in all the effort for nothing held me down. What’s the point if things just aren’t going to work out? But here’s the punchline, and what I want everyone that’s made it to this point to think about. The so called “grind”, the hours of work and effort you put in to achieve your goals, the actions that we’re all scared of (talking to people that make us nervous, admitting to our mistakes): that’s the best part. Who cares that I didn’t get a full season, or that the Joker ride at Six Flags is kind of garbage? In both those situations, I got to experience the thrill of climbing higher and higher, towards the peak before the ride. Does it matter that I never got to enjoy either ride? No. It doesn’t, because I got to go through my new favorite part.
So the next time you or I feels fear, let’s make a pact. Instead of thinking about the other side as the reward, let’s think about how awesome it’s going to be to get there. Don’t be scared of what you have to do to get what you want, find the thrill in it.
P.S. Allan, I’m going to need 5 size Medium shirts for this summer, thanks.