The waterslide

Life.

If life is a waterslide, it’s one of those half-tube shaped ones with sides that curves up over your head and blocks the view of what’s to come.

Birth and early childhood is sitting in the gurgling pool of water at the top waiting and waiting for the adult with the whistle to tell you to push off and go. Then adolescence is that first quick drop that hopefully sets you up with enough inertia. That force will carry you through the twists and drops and dark tunnels of puberty and your teenage years. It’s a winding but certain path down, down, and into your twenties when, if you were lucky to get on a good waterslide in the first place, you might reach a fork. The forks are always gentle ones on this sort of slide, not much of a choice really, a slight lean on your hip and suddenly you’ve moved down the right or left side. Even if you try to slow things down to try to self-actualize, the water just pushes you on down the tube. The curved sides offer little friction against wet hands and feet.

There are more drops and darkness followed by light, and then more drops and darkness, and then sometimes a spiral that keeps bringing you back to the same place, just farther down, but it’s in those predictable moments that you notice that if you lie back to look up at the sky, everything moves faster and is a lot more fun, and so sometimes you do that and sometimes you sit up to slow things down again. And so on and so on until you find yourself in your thirties when suddenly, unceremoniously, the slide ends and dumps you into a pool of water.

Everything is free form now in the pool, there’s no tube carrying you onward to a certain place. You are here now at that certain place, and here is where you stay for much of your thirties. You sit for a while at the bottom of the pool, enjoying the quiet stillness, rather pleased with making it through your life so far unscathed, but you can’t stay still for too long. You remember you need to breathe, and so you stand up out of the water and take a deep breath and for the first time see the edges of the pool and the high fence or whatever else surrounds it. And as you contemplate your arrival in this, someone with a whistle motions to you to get out the way.

“Get out of the way for the next one coming!” he yells, and that’s all he says. He’s not there to tell you what to do like the adult who started it all at the top of the slide. He watches to make sure you have paddled out of the way before he yells at someone else.

You pull yourself from the grips of the pool and walk beyond the fence. On your right, there’s a long line of people waiting to board the slide you were just on. Maybe a couple people still dripping wet push past you to get back in line for it again.

And so, you have a decision to make.

Hopefully, this is the moment when you realize you’ve been looking at it all wrong.

Life is not a waterslide.

You turn left, away from the line and the slide and the pool and with a full heart pumping, race off to find your next ride.

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