I have NEVER liked going fast.

I was slow to tie my shoelaces, forced to take home the static-ridden preschool class record and practice along with the loathsome bunny song.  I was slow to ride my bike, preferring training wheels until I learned how to balance in my basement at age 8.  I was slow to do my own hair, keeping my personal hairstylist (Mom) in business until I was much too old to be doing so.  I was slow to date, not really quite getting the hang of that whole scene until college.   I was (and for the most part still am) slow to adopt trends in fashion and pop culture.  And when it comes to game nights with friends, if it’s not a word game, my brain is abnormally slow at adopting the concepts and rules, such that sometimes I’m forced to sit out rather than make my friends explain it all again and again.

I suppose I’m not slow at EVERYTHING.  I am quick-witted; a rapid typist; a speedy sprinter; a quick learner (at least when it comes to things other than calculus, reading maps, and the afore-mentioned complex games). 

But when it comes to being inside a vehicle, I’m a steadfast supporter of “slow and steady wins the race” or, alternatively, “slow and steady keeps on breathing.”  Whenever I notice my own speedometer creep over 70 on the freeway, I instantly lay off the gas, preferring granny-like speeds of 60 to 65.  And when I’m a passenger and I notice the driver changing lanes too swiftly or getting too close to the car ahead, I involuntarily put my right hand to the door, as if I can pull a hand-brake.  It’s my own cautionary thing.  It’s more for my comfort than anything else, though sometimes I think that when the driver peripherally notices my hand move, they slow down. 

Roller coasters are my arch nemesis.  Most of my friends love them.  They live for places like Magic Mountain and Disneyland, while my favorite theme park ever was called Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.  (I’m so hardcore, I know.)  During a high school band trip, I visited this park and was delighted to find that its focus was not on thrill rides, but on history, games, shows and other entertainment.  They had great shopping and a slow coal mine ride that took us down into a real cave for a tour.  I didn’t feel like a wuss for not riding rides.  I was just like everyone else exploring the fun and the focus wasn’t on me and my fears.  It was nice for a change.

For the record, I have been on one roller coaster before.  It was at another rip-roarin’ popular theme park, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  I was around 9 or 10 years old at the time, adorned with a pair of red plastic-framed glasses two sizes too big for my face.  I was average height and weight for my age.  And I was excited about the indoor ride I was about to go on.  Its name, I believe, was Blazing Fury.  I figured it was just a ride that moved you along in spurts past fun animatronic characters, Disney-style. 

When my dad, brother and I got on the metal ride, a single bar was pulled down that missed securing my body by at least 6 inches if not more.  But we didn’t worry.  This was just going to be like Small, Small World on wheels, but with Southern belles and fire. 

WRONG.  I don’t remember when we started going fast but it was up and down and all around as my body knocked around from side to side, back and forth.  I lost my glasses which meant I could barely see.  And I started crying and shaking.  When I got off that ride I could barely walk.  Luckily, the man sitting behind me had caught my glasses, otherwise I’d have spent the rest of my vacation squinting, or would have had to get new glasses in some po-dunk town like Sevierville, where my mom later ended up in a fly-swarmed clinic with chest pains.  (But that’s another story.) 

I will never forget that ride.  But it’s not just that old rickety ride, which by the looks of the website, has since been modernized.  It’s the log ride I went on during junior high with friends at Six Flags Great America.  As we sailed down the slope, I realized I couldn’t breathe.  I tried and tried and tried but it was like my lungs had both collapsed.  When we finally stopped moving, I gulped in air like I’d never taste it again.  It really scared me.

Here’s my feeling about speed:  if I need to close my eyes and squeeze my fists and keep my mouth shut so I can breathe, or alternatively let out a blood-curdling scream, I don’t generally find what I’m doing fun. 

Which is, I guess, why I am announcing my third feardom-fighting challenge.  Nope, it’s not a roller coaster.  I’m not ready to tackle that fear just yet, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

Instead, I’ll be fighting my fear of speed by competing against my friends in a 14-lap go-kart race on November 20th.  Okay, so it’s not a NASCAR experience.  But if you had been inside my body, feeling the sore arthritic finger pain that crippled me after I white-knuckled my way through my last go-kart riding experience, then you’d understand how big of a deal this is for me. 

So, wish me luck, and in the meantime, I’ll continue sharing my fears with you.  Because I think that in addition to helping myself, I’ve got a real chance to help others.  One of my friends recently told me she faced her fear of riding horses after reading my blog.  And I’ve looked at the search terms that have randomly led strangers to Scared Witless.  More than once I’ve seen the phrase “scared of ziplining.”  And whether those strangers went on to go ziplining or not, I hope I was able to make them feel a little less alone.