I’d like to say I’m Princess Peach but that’s a damn lie. In fact, on some days, I can be mistaken for a Bowser. The truth is, I am in throes of motherhood and I don’t always quite know who I am. What I do know is that I’m in a real life Super Mario Kart game and I can’t find my way off Rainbow Road.
If you’re a product of the 90’s, you know the game well. Nintendo’s Super Mario Kart was a cultural icon of the 1990’s. I would spend hours racing those familiar yet equally otherworldly tracks. That is, of course, if I could get the game to start. After blowing intensely to the point of exhaustion into the bottom of the game cartridge, the pixilated logo would finally appear. Little did I know when I was glued to my family’s state of the art 45” Mitsubishi tube TV that my life would eventually mimic that relentless road race.
Each Mario Kart course brought its challenges, of course. But with time and practice (hours and hours and hours of practice), I could easily conquer each one. Even finding shortcuts, at times. And such is life. Over and over again, we are faced with experiences that are new and uncertain. “How the hell am I going to get through this,” we often ask ourselves. College. Marriage. Parenthood. Hell, adulthood as a whole. We don’t know how we’re going to do it (and do it well) but we eventually get the hang of it. And it becomes second nature. Just ask any first time mom.
There are days I cruise around life’s course corners with ease. I have adjusted to life’s new challenges, after all. I think to myself, I got this. And some days, I actually do. I get the kids out the door. I get myself out the door. I even remember to put the dog back inside the door. Everyone gets to where they need to be for the day and I pat myself on the back as I cruise through the Starbucks drive-thru.
Yet, others days, I am quickly left in the dust at the start line. “Go! Go! Go!” I used to yell as I pushed on the controlled buttons even harder. Why was I spinning my wheels but not moving? I hit the gas too early. On these days as an adult, I am flooded with anxiety before I even get out of bed in the morning. The world has taken off without me. I can’t explain why some days are like this. Adulthood is hard and confusing and overwhelming. The second we think we have it figured out - when we’re cruising past our competitors, I mean friends, over the bumps, around the tight curves – we get hit by a fucking flying turtle shell.
These turtle shells – be it green, red or the dreaded blue - are the curveballs that life throws at us. We know they exist; we’ve seen them hit our friends and family. But we never stop to think they might hit us. Sometimes it is someone we love who aims the turtle shell directly at us. This betrayal stings and sends us into a tailspin…literally. Sometimes, we’re just victims of happen chance. We must cope with the injustice that has so unfairly struck us and taken us off course. Eventually, we are able to pull ourselves together and get back on course. Sometimes we can’t do it alone though and that strange little cloud man comes to pick our ass up.
As adults, we get so accustomed to the rate at which life throws us changes. Go to college! Get a job! Meet a spouse! Get married! Have a baby! Have two! Why not three! These life events are the power boosts of Mario Kart. They propel us from one life event to another without thinking of the repercussions. What am I passing along the way? What will I run into with such thoughtless speed? We fly from one power boost to another. Life is a blur but a beautiful blur filled with weddings and babies and butterflies. Eventually, life slows down and the power boosts become sparse. We struggle to adjust to this new speed. We’re still racing but now at a pace that allows us to see the realities we once ignored. We try to find old power boosts we used to enjoy. A late night out with friends. A fantasy of another baby. A weekend get-away. But it doesn’t work. We even try to find new power boosts. A new job. A new house. A new country to travel to. Still, we remain sluggish, unsatisfied and, ultimately, a little lost on a course that used to feel familiar.
The courses we take are always different. Sometimes it is a bright and cheerful Mario Circuit. The sun is always shining here and the grass is always green. Other times, we find ourselves in Bowsers Castle. It’s dark in there. It feels heavy, scary and we can’t wait for it to end. We race toward the finish but as a result we end up in the lava. And, of course, there is the magical yet manic Rainbow Road, which is where I find myself now.
I always wanted to get to Rainbow Road, both literally and figuratively. I loved the thrill of the course. But Rainbow Road has challenges unlike any other and getting to the finish line feels impossible without flying off course into the black abyss.
Just like getting to Rainbow Road in Mario Kart, I couldn’t wait to get to this point in life. I dreamed of having a successful career, 2.5 kids, a handsome husband, and a white picket fence. Little did I know then that I would have a career but I would constantly be torn between my professional ambitions and my maternal instincts. Little did I know that two kids wouldn’t be enough but three might be too many. Little did I know I would have a handsome but not so handy husband who can’t fix the broken picket fence. All of this contains the beauty that I knew it would but I can’t seem to slow down to enjoy the scenery. This course is so fucking beautiful and yet here I am flying through it at breakneck pace.
I recognize this Rainbow Road course is a phase. It’s a phase marked with kids who are potty trained but can’t wipe their own butts. Children who need and need and need and rarely give. Spouses that are equally stressed and sleep-deprived. Toddlers who throw their dinner across the table then throw tantrums for dessert. Vacations that are put on the back burner because the new furnace won’t pay for itself. Evenings that are spent breaking up sibling fights and breaking down when they go to sleep. Carseats that are caked with…cake because that’s all the baby will eat. Work outs that don’t happen unless you include picking up your toddler over and over and over again. Sleep that is interrupted because someone always has a bad dream. This phase is enough to make you delirious…just like Rainbow Road.
I know I won’t be on Rainbow Road forever. Soon, I’ll look back on this Rainbow Road phase with only fond memories of how beautiful it was. Because, it is beautiful. The quirky comments, the baby snuggles, the endless laughing, the wonderfully weird personalities, the precious art work, the extra tight hugs, the out-of-the-blue “I love you's.” They are truly beautiful. These are the power boosts of the Rainbow Road phase.
I won’t always be on this course but I will always wish I was.