When I was younger I took way more risks than I do now. The riskiest things I have done include: Diving headfirst off a cliff into a small pool of water, Driving a car after not sleeping the night before, Having unprotected sex, Saying no to my mother, Writing a review of a concert that I didn’t attend, Turning down a job offer, Rejoining the dating scene at age fifty, Seeking a life of no-fixed-address after retirement.
It is wise to at least look before you leap. Sensible folk will tell us that a little planning goes a long way. There are many phrases that can begin a cautionary tale, which we can share at a dinner party or submit to our children as a lesson on how to avoid daddy’s questionable behaviour. I find it fascinating how our languages have sayings that we can use to keep us safe from harm; if only we would take a moment to listen. Our inner voice may exclaim excitedly, ‘He who hesitates is lost.’ Then concurrently counsel, ‘Good things come to those who wait.’
Life can be scary, yet sometimes we make it scarier when we don’t do a risk analysis. We must not forget that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Most perils can be avoided or at least ameliorated with a little thought before hand. And not all risks are physical. It took me a while to stop fearing imminent financial collapse even though I’ve been fortunate to have regular employment. I’ve felt the anxiety at the end of a monthly pay cycle but I’ve never known the riskiness of living on the street. I’ve weighed options of a benign sort when it comes to the emotional risk of relationships. The risk of a broken heart has been my Everest to conquer in life; something I have chosen with excitement, as a mountaineer might prepare for a risky climb. In this analogy, practice has brought the experience necessary to help me be safely awestruck by love.
Some may see risk taking as creating a fuller life, however, living on the edge is not in my comfort zone. I prefer to watch the thrill seekers, cheer them on even, rather than join in the mass revelry. There are some risks I will not take. I will not jump from an airplane, even with a parachute. I refrain from watching horror films. I am not a recreational drug user. I will not gamble with my money. I will not drink and drive. I will remain faithful to my lover. I will not let anger get the better of me. I will chew my food carefully.
There is reward in taking a risk. Staying in bed or not leaving your apartment will get you nowhere. Life is neither to be squandered nor played like a game of Risk. Situations are inevitable, occasionally dangerous, yet a moment or two of evaluation before proceeding with the next step is a valid price to pay. Steady on, take a breath, pause, be still and listen.