A few years ago, at a Vivo Life community meet up, I met a customer with an extraordinary passion for rollercoasters. Our conversation has remained with me ever since.
To tell the truth, it was less about what he said but how he said it. Whenever I meet anyone with that kind of enthusiasm I’m a captive audience – no matter how weird or wonderful the subject.
So over the next hour or so, my new friend told me stories of cross-continental travel to roller the most exhilarating coasters the world had to offer. He’d voyaged to Japan to take on Takabisha, locked eyes with El Toro in New Jersey, and road-tripped to Sweden to ride (the aptly named) Insane.
He described with great detail the adrenaline rush as your cart surges out of the blocks; the excitement as you defy gravity for a heart-pounding 360; and the freedom that can only be felt with the wind whipping through your hair at breakneck speed.
He even told me the origin of the name ‘rollercoaster’ and how it translates differently across the world. In many European countries they are known as ‘Russian Mountains,’ in Hungarian they are referred to as ‘wavy iron roads,’ whilst in Japanese the nearest translation is ‘scream machine.’
I wasn’t quite ready to pack up my career as a fledgling entrepreneur and become a full time member of the RCCGB (Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain); but my new friend certainly made a good case.
Little did I know that just a few years later, I’d be strapping on my seatbelt to ride one of the most intense rollercoasters the world has ever seen. 2020.
It would be wrong to try and summarise everyone’s experience in just a few short paragraphs. For many it has been the most challenging journey of their lives; whilst others have had a relatively smooth ride. As I reflect on this year with all of my loved ones in good health and my livelihood in tact, I realise I am one of the incredibly lucky ones.
But despite the difference in velocity, 2020 has certainly brought its fair share of twists and turns for all of us. We’ve seen arduous climbs and hurtling descents; white-knuckle inversions and moments when we thought the ride would derail completely. And then, just as it seemed the wheels were slowing down, we shot into second gear and powered on faster than ever.
Accompanying the G Force there have been moments of profound stillness too. I’ll never forget how the melodies of birdsong carried on crisp springtime winds, uninterrupted by the usual drone of commuter traffic. Or how it felt to gaze up at a pastel blue sky for hours without a single plane in sight.
As the world slowed down we were given an unprecedented opportunity to pause and reflect. What were the biggest lessons that you learned?
Did you deepen your interdependence with nature? Did you find refuge amongst the trees or by the ocean when the material world seemed too much?
Did you realise the importance of your friends and family when you couldn’t see them? Did a simple phone call make your heart light up with gratitude? Did you love your loved ones harder when reminded of their impermanence?
Did you commit to a meditation practice? Were you able to seek solace in the stillness? Could you hear the whisper of your intuition begin to guide you for the very first time?
Whatever lessons 2020 has brought you, I hope that you can look back on them with a heart full of gratitude. I know how tough it has been, but I also know that there can be no growth without growing pains.
Every challenge you have been given this year was brought to you for a reason. Every adversity that you have faced will only serve to make you stronger than ever.
Sometimes things need to break in order to be rebuilt. And I know that this year has brought so many of us to breaking point.
But when I reflect on some of the lowest times in my life, I recognise that they were also some of the most important. Without them I would not be anywhere close to the person that I am today.
Which is why, as we prepare to disembark the wildest rollercoaster of our lives, I’ll be the first in the queue to ride again next year. For this is the very nature of the human experience; sometimes painful, sometimes blissful. Often beautiful. Occasionally formidable. Always unpredictable. And completely, undeniably out of our control.
Just like a rollercoaster you can guarantee there will be twists and turns; euphoric highs and excruciating lows. And just like a rollercoaster, there will be very little you can do to prevent them. This year has taught me, wherever practically possible, to simply throw up my hands and enjoy the ride.
To those rejoicing in the end of 2020; I feel you. But I also promise you that next year will bring its fair share of challenges, heartache and tears too.
Alongside those it will bring moments of unspeakable beauty in the most unexpected places. It will bring Joy so profound it illuminates every cell of your being. It will bring adventures (within and without) that will transform the way that you look at the world forever.
It will bring strangers who walk into your life and turn your entire existence upside down. It will bring memories shared with old friends long into the night. It will bring laughter until your ribs ache and your cheeks want to burst. It will bring moments of love and connection that melt everything else into insignificance.
And if we do it properly, it will bring a sense of togetherness and unity that we’ve never experienced in our lifetime. Because we’re all on this ride together. We may as well hold each other’s hands as we hurtle into the unknown.
So fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight. This was never meant to be easy, but you came here for a reason. I pray that 2021 is the most spectacular ride of your life.
P.S: in a year where so much has changed, I'm more grateful than ever for the support of this incredible community. Together we have planted more than 200,000 trees; raised over £50,000 for charity; and put more than 70,000 single use plastic pouches out of circulation.