I believe in taking risks

Marcia - Benson, Minnesota
Entered on February 29, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I believe

I believe in taking risks.

As a child I enjoyed hours of sledding, whizzing down the cemetery hill while snowflakes glittered in my hair. I went “wibber lubbing,” our childhood made-up word for walking on ice on a creek near my home while pretending to be exploring the North Pole. Once I fell through the ice and was soaked to my knees. I ran home where Mom wrapped me in a Hudson Bay blanket and put some milk on the stove to make hot chocolate.

While I was a college student in the sixties, my girlfriend and I hitchhiked from Minneapolis to Chicago. Although it was a time when many threw caution to the wind, hitchhiking by a couple of young women was out of the ordinary. In my early forties I rode my motorcycle from Minnesota to Alaska and back. In our late forties my husband and I built our home with our own four hands, an undertaking that involved some physical risk, as well as the emotional risk of failure. Few things in life have evoked a greater sense of accomplishment.

Now in my sixties, I am more cautious, but I still climb my apple ladder and reach for the bright red fruit near the top of the tree. I self-published a book, an enterprise that called forth courage of self-disclosure and the potential risk of embarrassment.

I recently heard that some states are considering laws requiring children to wear helmets for sledding. No wonder children stay inside and watch adventure TV rather than having a pseudo-adventure on a golf course hill. A generation earlier children used a sled or old tire to cut a path through new-fallen snow on that same hill without helmets or adult supervision.

I also heard a radio interview that described using a walk station at work. Listeners were advised to check with their physicians before standing and walking while working. If we can’t determine without expert advice whether walking or sitting is better for us, I wonder what happens to our self confidence, to say nothing about our circulatory systems.

Our great-ancestors’ almost daily search for food often entailed serious risk. They confronted tigers and bear and wolves and developed the cunning to evade or kill them. Running through the forest in pursuit or fear, they developed muscular strength, enhanced the efficiency of their hearts, and clearly knew their mission. Our biology is adept at confronting risk and the associated fight or flight response.

I suspect our modern day habits of alcoholism and other addictions develop in part out of a craving for adventure that our culture often thwarts. In eliminating many threats to our comfort and safety, we may have eliminated a crucial sense of purpose and mission. Insidious safety messages that bombard us contribute either to a gradual eroding of confidence in self or to having titillating escapades that involve serious risk to self or others. War may be one of the few socially approved ways left to fulfill the young’s quest for adventure.

When I am old and risk injury by falling on the ice while hanging my three sheets to the wind on my makeshift clothesline, I hope I continue to take whatever small risks my frail body will accommodate.