Today, riding the N into downtown SF, I saw two kids attempting to climb up the twisty slide at the Duboce Park playground. They were both two-thirds of the way there, though as I watched, the little girl of the pair was about to lose her grip of the metallic rim while the little boy tried to squirm past her. C'mon, you can do it! I caught myself thinking. I was rooting so hard for these kids to make it! As the train began to pull away, I saw them heave themselves forward, landing on the platform above them in a laughing heap. I was so proud.
Then I began to wonder, why is it that kids reach a point where the easy route isn't as fun anymore? Why do we feel the need to try and climb the slide backwards?
I can't say that I came up with a definitive answer. I think that there are people who prefer to just use the slide "the way it was meant to be used." It's safer that way; still thrilling at times and yet it results in a comfortably predictable sensation, once you know how to use it. And sometimes conquering the fear of going down the slide is one of the biggest parts of a life. Who could imagine trying to go backwards up something that they just learned to face in doing the right way?!
But I was one of the backwards climbers. And when crawling up it wasn't enough, I got into the rebellious "running up the slide" phase, trying to keep up with my cousin Jake. I didn't always make it, but when it worked, there was that giddy rush of accomplishment that makes you ride down the right way and then attempt to run up the slide again.
I've picked a career (read: lifestyle) that will pretty much always involve climbing up the slide, as opposed to an easy ride down. And at many times, even getting two-thirds of the way to the top can feel like the fight of a lifetime that you're about to lose your grip on. But that final push to the platform is what does it; the triumph of making it, standing at the top, is the best feeling -- being on top of your playground, your world.
I climb up the slide because the view from the top is always best when I've earned it.