taking risks

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I know I’ve said this before, but I find it really uncanny that when you start to think about something, it seems to appear everywhere.  In conversations, books read, articles emailed to me, you name it, and the same themes keep appearing.  I talked (waffled) recently about identity and confidence, and for me (everyone?) they’re so closely interlinked that sometimes it can be difficult to separate the influence of one from the other.  Another theme I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is risk.

Maybe some people wouldn’t categorise this as ‘risk’ per se, but through some random pusbook clicking I came across a couple of speeches about confidence and acceptance that two women (an actress and a comedian) had given at a gala that was celebrating people and companies that empower and support women (as I get older I’m only one bra-burn away from becoming a militant feminist I think).  While the speeches came from a different angle, they were both very frank, unflinchingly honest, funny and moving.  I think being so honest is risky in itself.  What if it backfires?  Is being proud of who you are, and being willing to stand up for that despite what anyone else thinks the equivalent of taking a ‘risk’? Maybe, maybe not.  I’m not actually sure.

When I think of taking risks, I think about skydiving or flying or rock climbing or bungee jumping – something that, if it goes wrong, means that more than likely, you’re pretty much fucked. Sayonara bitches! Although of course most of us would get in a car everyday of our lives, and that is way risky (statistically, in comparison to flying, say), but most of us wouldn’t give it a second thought.  We cram crappy food and booze and cigarettes and drugs in our bodies yet often don’t think (care?) of the cumulative risks of doing so.  These things could just as easily shorten our lives, but when the impact isn’t so instant, it can be easy to forget we’re taking a risk.  We normalise it and thus de-risk it.

I am quite a morbid person in some ways, and I think about life and death a lot. I’m not afraid of death – I know we all die some point, but to be honest I just think of it as something that will happen in the future. As time passes and I get older it makes me question what is important to me, and what I still want to achieve. I want to see more of the world, I want to feel like I’ve made a difference within it. I know just by being a westerner and therefore wealthy compared to millions of others on the planet, I’ve taken out more than I’ve put in, so to speak. I can’t imagine doing anything that I’ll be remembered for, but at the same time I want to feel as though I’ve done something worthwhile.  Of course there is always the option of taking the risk of quitting my job and secure life to go and ‘make a difference’, either in a part of the world that doesn’t have the same luxuries as we do, such as democracy, health care, justice etc., or even closer to home to work for eff all money and take a socially responsible job.  Then again, is that ‘taking a risk’ or just ‘being selfish’?  I think probably both, to an extent, and if so, maybe there is nothing wrong with that? Or maybe there’s a lot wrong with it.  You see, I’m not actually sure about this either!

Yesterday I watched video online where they aged a young couple in their 20s who are about to get married so they could see what they may both look like when they reach 50/60/90 years of age. Their reactions were so sweet, but to be honest my immediate thought was: what if you saw yourself that age but you never made it there.  What if you saw what you’d potentially look like at 80 but didn’t live past 60?! How mind-blowing would that be?!  I’ll be 40 this year, and my Mum died when she was 54. What if I only have 14 years left?!  FUCK!!

I guess the whole point of this very random, probably incoherent, and frankly nonsensical post is that ultimately, I think there is no time to waste, even though more often than not, I’ve been living like there is plenty of time to waste. There is so much still to do. Risks to take, lessons to learn.

But here is the kicker: why does it often feel easier to take physical risks (driving, flying, eating shite, skydiving etc. etc.), where the consequences could be fatal, but it isn’t so easy to take emotional risks?  I guess it is because you can stitch up a cut, and bones heal, but emotional pain is hard to heal.  Where do you even start?  I’m sure someone far more clever  than me (which is pretty much anyone right now, seeing as this post probably makes no sense whatsoever) has done a lot of research on this, and can give you actual evidence, but my view is that the payout from taking an emotional risk is much higher in the long run than it is for a physical risk.  Adrenaline spikes when you jump out of an aircraft, hurtling towards the earth with only some silk to save you, but that adrenaline passes (especially of the chute doesn’t open), and you need to keep doing death-defying feats to get the same buzz.  When you take an emotional risk and it pays off, then you could have years of happiness, potentially.  Even if it doesn’t work out, then you can learn from it, and grow, and the benefits of that can keep you going for a while.  So why it is so difficult?  I guess it is easier to stay snuggled up in the safety blanket of the ‘known’, than toss it aside, and risk freezing to death without it.  It’s like running through a door when you can’t see what’s on the other side, and you’re hoping against hope that there’s a road on the other side, and not a bloody cliff, except you’re not allowed to have a peak first.

Anyone that has actually gotten to this part of the post deserves a medal, so thanks, but you may also now be waiting for the big reveal about the risk i’m wondering whether I should take or not. Well, sorry, it isn’t coming.  I can’t really say what i’m thinking about, that would be too risky 😉   Actually it isn’t that, more that I just have all these random thoughts in my head, taking up too much room that i’d rather fill with, oh, I don’t know, gin!  I’ve had such amazing responses from people from my last few posts, often saying that they felt the same way, so I guess I just wondered if i’m the only nutter out there that thinks these things too?  Answers on a postcard.  If it is a resounding ‘yes!’ i’ll just go for a nice drive.  Much less risky 🙂

4 thoughts on “taking risks

  1. I really found this interesting Lee. I can’t think of any big risks I have taken in my life apart from emotional ones! The rewards for those risks have been amazing and we’re taken not only for my benefit but for my family’s benefit also. We would be a very different family unit had I not taken the risk after our daughter Rudi was stillborn to have another baby and then again 17 months later, truly the most terrifying in total 18 months of my life! I worry about physical risks all the time and at one point last year wasn’t functioning very well at all. Since then I have been learning more about mindfulness and using this approach as a coping mechanism has really helped me! It has kept me sane when I thought I was going insane with various anxieties. You say your post didn’t make sense but actually it made perfect sense to me. Live every day to its fullest, sometimes it’s the little things, sometimes it’s the big things! There is a saying ‘even the smallest of footprints makes an everlasting imprint in the world’ or something like that! I believe it is true! Everyone makes their impact on the world in different ways.
    What a ramble to follow! No idea if any of it makes sense, just wrote what was in my head 🙂

    • Dawn that makes complete sense! Thanks for sharing. I can’t even imagine what it must have even like losing your beautiful wee girl, but as you say, it was worth taking that risk again, no matter how terrifying, because look at your fabulous wee family! That puts things into perspective really. I’m glad to hear mindfulness is helping you too. I bought a book on it lately after reading a bit about it, and hearing so many positive things about it, so that’s next on my list to read/do! Thanks again for your lovely comment xx

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