Photo by Michelle Weber
I’ve always thought that theme parks mimic life. The successful and popular ones are loud, exciting and exhilarating. Most people want to be around this energy, to experience its power. We get bombarded with advertising campaigns that tell us that we should all be trying something new, something adrenaline fuelled. We're not part of the popular, successful, affluent crowd until we've travelled the fastest, reached the highest and screamed the loudest along the way.
And what of the rides that make up the theme parks? Of course the Star of the Show is always the super-duper laser show, death-defying, scream if you want to go faster, high speed ride that everyone talks about and wants to be able to say “I was there, I did it”. But these types of thrills, you come to realise as you go through life, don’t always live up to the hype that’s been built up around them. You wait an age to experience the excitement, watching everyone that has already done it rave about how great it is but then you race through it, probably with your eyes closed, definitely gripping the safety bar and just as you start to relax and enjoy the sensations, it's over in a flash.
But what happens when you've done all that? You're either left unsatisfied with a hunger you never knew existed, realising that you need more; more excitement, more noise, more highs; or you're left shaken and broken, with quaking legs, a lead weight in the pit of your stomach and a sense of "Was it really worth it?".
Theme parks are designed to have the most exciting, fast paced ride where everyone can see it and swarm over to it to drink in the adrenaline fuelled intoxication. The quieter, calmer rides get put in the corners of the park away from the bright lights and loud music. Maybe this is because the park designers think these won't hold people's attention for long enough? That's probably true for the teenagers, but they haven't had the full impact of living life just yet.
As young people on the start of their journey into the ultimate theme park we call Life, they don't realise that you need to pace out the big excitements in life to stop them merging into one big burst of stimuli, too much at once, leaving you stunned. They haven't yet realised that you don't need to be thrown around to loud music and pulsating lights to get enjoyment. Their eyes are not looking for the slower, old fashioned ride; their ears cannot hear the gentle music being played; they have forgotten that you can get pleasure in life from just sitting and being lulled by memories.
Now that I am older I find myself being drawn to these little quiet corners in the park. The merry-go-round with the music I remember from my childhood soothes my aching head. The gentle motion relaxes my body. The slowly turning platform allows me to take a deep breath and to look all around me, I can see everything clearly. I have time to see people around me enjoying themselves. I can reach across to hold the hand of a loved one. I can feel the gentle summer breeze catch my hair. I can reminisce about similar rides as a child and I can daydream about the time I will introduce my future children to this joy.
As much as I hope the children in my dreams will be happy with the gentle, safe childhood rides, I know there will come a time that they will need more. The gentle merry-go-round won't hold their attention. The animals that they used to argue over will seem small and boring. Their excitement will be directed somewhere else, somewhere I can’t go with them. They will beg for more, a faster pace, a chance to experience the newest thrill. I will only be able to stand on the side lines and watch them as they run on ahead, away from my protection.
I’ll know that I'll find myself worrying that after this first taste of excitement they will be swept along on the wave of thrill-seeking, away from the calming waters that they have grown up in. What dangers will they come across? What situations will they find themselves in? Will they make rash decisions that they later regret?
But I know all children go through the theme park of life, this is what makes us into adults. I am sure that one day, if I do my job as a parent well, the bright lights will stop luring them so much. When they visit the theme park it will be back to the quiet corners with their own family. They too will be ready to understand and appreciate the quiet, calm, joyous moments of the merry-go-round as much as I do.
Linked up with this week's Daily Press DPChallenge 1000 Words - Part 4