Great America. The pinnacle of our eighth grade year, heck maybe even all of middle school. “I can’t wait to go on the Great America field trip!” would constantly be heard throughout our junior high experience. As the year slowly winded down, the trip was finally here. I remember jumping out of our bus, excited to enjoy this trip that I’d been looking forward to for the longest time. Throughout the whole day, the roller-coasters were amazing, the food was overpriced but still enjoyable, and my expectations were fully fulfilled by the end of that adventurous day.
Now, almost four years later, I returned to Great America expecting the same results. But what I discovered today was that as I had gotten older, what I thought was “fun” had also drastically changed. After a few times over the regular roller coasters that I had enjoyed so much just a few years earlier, Flight deck, Vortex, Demon, I found that although having my stomach drop and my adrenaline rush was still quite an experience, I no longer felt the joy that was supposed to come with these rides. Slowly going up that hill, anxiously awaiting the drop that was about to come, no longer felt like conquering Everest, but was merely just like waltzing over a mere bump. Instead of the ride feeling like an eternity of exhilaration, it had been over in an instant, no sooner had it started, did it end. Not only was the ride itself unsatisfactory, waiting an hour for 30 seconds of fun felt like forever.
Standing in the sweltering sun, I finally understood why I didn’t see many upperclassman or young college undergraduates around these amusement parks. It was not because they didn’t have time, or that they just thought they were too cool for these types of places, but it was truly because they had much better things to do with their time and money. These hubs of fun that I had never thought could be overgrown had changed right in front of my unconscious eyes.
As we grow older, we begin to shed away objects like roller coasters or spinny rides in order to have fun with our friends. We start to enjoy and appreciate the pure company of our companions and the presence of our closest comrades. When we were in elementary school and middle school, hanging out with our friends revolved around things that made us enjoy ourselves. In order to have “fun” we needed to play a video game, watch a movie, or, like in this case, ride some roller coasters. We built our friendships, conversations, and laughter around these foundational spheres of “happiness” because we had nothing else to talk about.
Through maturing or just because of growing up, this situation begins to flip. Instead of having to find something to enjoy and then inviting friends over to enjoy it together, we begin to invite friends first and then pick out whatever excursion we would go on next. We no longer need anything to stimulate our minds for conversation as we begin to create our own opinions of our world; we get more confident in sharing our thoughts and ideas, allowing for more intricate and, in turn, more amazing conversations that are spurred by us and us alone.
A simple hike at Quicksilver can become so much more rewarding than a whole day spent at an amusement park. Waiting in a 40 minute line is replaced by friendly conversation around a campfire; buying expensive and unhealthy fast food is replaced with enjoying simple homemade cookies over the glowing Californian sunset; throwing money out on carnival games designed to make you lose is replaced with long nights of poker and card games at one of our local homes. Twenty years later, the treasured memories that we will be talking about will surely be the times spent conversing with our friends on a simple bike ride or when we just decided to go and hang out at the park and not when we spent 8 hours walking around a roller coaster filled theme park.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, as we grow yet one more year older, we begin to define and discover ourselves instead of needing something to dictate what we feel. Fulfillment and comfort envelopes from the inside out and not the other way around. The reason why we value the experiences from our high school and future college years more than the experiences from elementary and middle school is because these memories were created not out of superficiality, but out of cherished connections.
With everything in mind here is a sonnet to conclude:
Do amusement parks ever amuse you?
The overpriced food, the cheap rip-off games.
Green bills you hold drops from many to few,
Rather than comfort, your body it maims.
Why wait hours for minutes of relief?
Burning, baking under the scorching sun.
Start anew, wipe away your false belief
That these parks are for pleasure and fun.
Great America, Six Flags, the whole lot.
Luring us in with face paints and plush toys.
To steal our time without a second thought,
Turn back while you can, all you girls and boys.
These thieving places may seem like honey,
But all they want is your hard earned money.