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Monday, January 28, 2013

up and down

So here we are.

There comes a day when one makes a staggering realization about the world that may or may not be of any real importance, but the truth must be told nonetheless:

People, you’re using the roller coaster metaphor all wrong.

It’s everywhere, especially when it comes to a show business career, but it’s also used to describe the lives of products, stocks, companies, relationships and even ordinary humans: it was a roller-coaster career/history/life, filled with ups and downs, dizzying highs and staggering lows.

And indeed, there are lows and highs in both a roller coster ride and a career, but I am here to argue that these respective highs and lows are not at all the same... except maybe for that first initial climb up. 

Yes, that first climb up the roller coaster is long and boring, yet tinged with anticipation, as is any initial climb up the ladder of life or business (corporate or show). It’s frustrating and exciting and you just can’t wait to get to the damn top already. 

But once you’re at the top of a roller coaster, the whole point of it is to speed downhill and go wheeeeee!! Trust me when I say that no one ever says wheeeeee when their career is going downhill or their stock is falling. 

Conversely, once you’re at the very top of your game, you want to stay at the top. But a plateau at the top of a roller coaster would be the most boring ride ever. Where’s the wheeeeee?

Roller coasters also have the added benefit of being planned and well-maintained. You can see the track in front of you, you know where it goes, you can prepare for the rise and fall, and all of it is stomach-droppingly, hair-whippingly, arms-thrust-uppingly fun. You also have the choice to not go on the roller coaster to begin with.

But in life, there are no such choices and there is no such clairvoyance. You don’t know if the peak you are currently enjoying is the highest one in the ride. You don’t have a giant neck restraint holding you in your seat. And your sunglasses don’t just suddenly fly off, either.

Pretty much the only real similarity between the “roller coaster of life” and actual roller coasters is the fact that both involve a lot of standing in line and occasional vomiting.

So what’s to be done about this? What’s a better, truer theme-park metaphor, if in fact aspects of life must be compared to a theme-park ride?

Let’s see... the obvious choice would be the merry-go-round, I suppose, with some horses going higher than others and some just bolted to the floor, and there’s always some rogue kid running around, and you see the same sights over and over, and even though you sometimes wish it would spin faster, in the end you don’t really get anywhere. Also, sometimes it’s really damn awkward getting on and off those horses. But in life and career there is no calliope music. Also, that particular comparison just seems so trite and childish.

Maybe a best theme-park metaphor for the ups and downs of life/love/career is the gift shop. It looks appealing, it’s very expensive, and you often come out of it with something you didn’t really want. (Example of execution: His/her relationship/career/life was a gift shop of wonder and disappointment.)

Or maybe there shouldn’t be metaphors for everything, even if you think you need them for an A&E Biography. Some things, like a show business career, are so ridiculous and unique that they are sort of their own metaphor already, i.e. Her/his show business career was a show business career. Enough said, cousin. 

Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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