The Need For Speed

I’ve always liked going fast. It started on my Big Wheel way back when I was about the size of a garden gnome, and continued on to numerous other manner of moving objects. If it had potential for locomotion, then I wanted to ride it as fast as possible. It became bicycles, rollerskates, skateboards, or snowboards. One of my first near death experiences involved putting skateboard trucks and wheels on one of my dad’s old skis and plummeting down the hill in front of my house. I started bombing ever steeper paved surfaces on my rolling devices, searching for velocities capable of reducing me to a tumbling meatball had I lost my balance or hit an obstacle. Soon I started jumping off of things like cliffs, trees, and roofs, flinging myself into things like lakes, oceans, and the shallow ends of pools. As I got older it turned into motorcycles, surfboards, and fast cars, but I was never too picky. Shopping carts, sleds, wheelbarrows, mopeds, handcarts, ice skates, wheeled luggage. Barrel-rolling down hills in garbage cans. Cardboard surfing down grassy hillsides. If it had potential to go downhill fast then I wanted to race it.

Some assumed that my love of going fast equated to reckless abandon, and that my need for speed would leave me either paralyzed or permanently covered in road rash. But considering the amount of time I spent racing toward terminal velocity in my pursuit of the extreme, my injuries were not all that extreme. Some minor scrapes and bruises, a few broken fingers and various other non-essential bones, a couple concussions that probably gave me dain bramage. Every time I fell I wanted to get right back up and try again. Many assumed that my desire to tear myself away from gravity’s smack down and immediately re-attempt whatever maneuver had slammed me into the Earth was a sign of mental instability. But I saw it as a sign of mental toughness, my red badge of courage. I told myself falling down was not failure Refusing to get up  and try again was failure. Fall down seven times, get up eight, I said. I think I can, I know I can, oh shit I’m going down, I said. But no matter how many times I fell, no matter how many times I hit the ground like a deflated basketball, I wasn’t a failure until I stopped getting up and trying again. I realize that eventually we’ll all hit the ground one last time and never stand back up, but until then I’m going to keep on getting back up and coming back for more.

Now fast forward to my current state of middle age. I still like going fast, but hitting the ground is far more painful these days. I don’t feel the need for speed as deeply as I feel the need to avoid falling. How fast can I go without risking personal injury has become my new mantra. When I was younger I’d hit the ground and bounce back up to my feet before I felt the pain. These day I stick to ground like I am covered in velcro. It is getting harder and harder to fight against the relentless pull of the Earth. Some might view middle age as the beginning of the end. A  person is said to be over the hill, implying that it is all downhill from here and life will soon become a meaningless burden as you plummet toward touch down. Does that mean when you are younger it is all uphill? Do we spend our entire youths laboring against some metaphorical gravitational impediment?

If there is one thing that I’ve learned while racing through life on unorthodox vehicles of all sizes — the downhill is supposed to be the fun part. Enjoy the ride.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Move

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