Lessons from Life 9: It’s worth the risk

Take some chances.

Life can be spent cautiously and carefully, avoiding all possible risk. To an extent we’ve all had to live this way for the past year. While this has, arguably, kept us safe, it hasn’t felt very much like living life, not in any really fulfilling way.

I’ve lived most of my life this way; risk averse, conforming to expectation and cautious to a stultifying degree. It hasn’t been until later in life, that I’ve started taking more chances, and have realised all that my ordinary little life can be.

I’m not advocating being rash, or doing things that are justifiably illegal or that would harm yourself or others (I could never smoke for this reason.) I am talking about not living life according the maybes, what ifs and possibles that are currently dictating our lives. ‘Maybe there will be a resurgence of Covid-19, possibly there will be vaccine-resistant strains, perhaps health systems will be overrun, what if I catch a virus – any virus – and be incapacitated or die.’ And maybe not.

We cannot live on the basis of such vagaries. We don’t in any other context: we don’t avoid driving because maybe this time will be the time we are involved in fatal crash; we don’t confine ourselves to our homes because the ultra-violent light outside might trigger cancer; we don’t, as Billy Joel so eloquently put it, stay far away from the door if there’s a chance of it opening up. (His ‘An Innocent Man’ is a brilliant song about daring to live.)

Every day under normal circumstances, we take calculated risks, having put in place any necessary precautions – seat belts, careful driving, sun cream or whatever – and we go out there and do things. This is how it should be.

Don’t doubt it; something will get you in the end. As Mark Twain famously put it, there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Only one of these is fatal (though the other runs a close second). Whatever we do, death cannot be avoided forever. Yet we behave as if it can. Take some chances; this is the only opportunity you’ll get to do so. Once you’re gone you can’t. I’ve not regretted a single risk I’ve taken.

They’ve made me alive.

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