How to white-knuckle your way to happiness

Astrid recounts a recent dare that, while horrifying, ended up being one of the happiest memories of her year so far.

Woman on a Roller Coaster

Photo by Getty Images

I thought peer pressure was supposed to end after high school but there I was years later being gently — well, not so gently — pushed into doing something I didn’t want to. The setting? Canada’s Wonderland. The dare? Leviathan — the 306-foot high, 80-degree drop roller coaster that reaches 148 kilometres an hour. Gulp.

I prefer my roller coasters at more reasonable heights, with a secure seatbelt and a pull-down shoulder strap, because every time I ride I’m convinced I’m going to be the person whose belt unfastens. Of course it never has. But tackling the Leviathan — the world’s third-tallest roller coaster — that’s a whole other class of ride. But I did it!

Despite the excruciatingly long line (it actually wasn’t that long — just every minute in the line gave me time to rethink my decision), my husband and I buckled in, pulled down the security bar and waited. “What are we doing? We have children!” I screamed at him as we started the slow climb to the top of the first hill (before we tipped over into what felt like a clinging-to-life free fall).

How did it feel? While it was three minutes and 28 seconds of screaming, shrieking, squinting, fist pumping, clinging and laughter.

Who knew a thrill ride could make you feel so happy? All five friends who accompanied us came off with wide grins and tales of how they managed the ride.

But it went on. We talked about it all afternoon through self-congratulatory smiles. My husband and I continued to discuss it that night and replaying that free fall even helped put me to sleep that night.

And while it sounds trivial, there was something almost life-affirming in that ride. We rose to the challenge and did it. Something we should do more often.

In the hours (even days) after climbing off that ride, my body’s adrenaline morphed into happiness. Because here I am days later, still giddy with the memory.

What do you like to do when you need an adrenaline rush?