As an active person, I often find myself in the crosshairs of a slew of concerned questions:
What if you fall and hurt yourself in the middle of the wilderness? What if you get attacked by an animal? What if you get attacked by a person? What if you get skin damage from the sun? What if you get seriously injured from [insert activity here]?
When CrossFit was my primary workout, I encountered a lot of articles and real-life conversations warning against the dangers of the sport. You could rip up your joints! You could get rhabdo!
Currently, I spend a fair amount of time trail running solo. I actually love it. As a small female, I get plenty of funny looks for choosing to go out alone.
I’ve talked about taking a trip alone to a (well-populated) national park, because alone time in nature is really rejuvenating for me. No sooner than the words get out of my mouth, everyone seems to want to tell me about what an “easy target” I would be if I were to be out alone.
These comments are well-meaning, but they miss the point.
The fundamental problem is that life is risky. There is literally no way to eliminate risk from your life.
Being sedentary can cause health problems. Being active opens you up to injury, no matter the activity. Driving your car to work is risky. Biking to work is risky. Eating meat might be risky to your health. Being vegetarian might be risky.
It’s not about finding things that are perfectly safe. Those things don’t exist. Don’t believe the myth that you can follow some checklist to ensure that nothing bad will ever befall you.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting being reckless. There are basic precautions you can take, like not running through the roughest part of town alone at midnight, or not telling anyone where you’re going right before a 4-day solo backpacking excursion. And yes, there are some activities that are inherently a little less risky when compared to others. But when it comes to taking “precautions” that actually mean depriving yourself of what makes you happy, that’s what I believe is worth intense questioning.
You’re not “supposed” to travel alone. But what if you don’t have a partner or available close friend and the years are rolling by?
Many developing nations are undeniably dangerous, but what if one of your greatest passions is humanitarian aid?
As women, we get an extra-large helping of safety concerns. Most of us were probably conditioned to constantly think (read: worry) about the many threats that constantly surround us. The warnings started when we were quite young. Don’t go out alone. Don’t take your eyes off your drink. Tell someone where you’re going. Learn self-defense. Carry mace.
The list of requirements we’re expected to comply with in order to guard our well-being is seemingly endless. The constant barrage can make us feel like we constantly need to be on our guard and if we misstep, we could be in big trouble. The guilt and expectations piled on us both from society and ourselves are very real.
To add to this, we’re made to feel like obscure risks are much more likely than they really are. For example, plane crashes are very uncommon, but you’re probably more worried about that than a car accident, even though the latter is way more likely, statistically speaking.
The result is that we’re really bad at analyzing whether something is truly risky, and as a result, we tend toward the knee-jerk reaction of avoiding something just because we perceive it as incredibly risky.
This doesn’t mean I don’t worry about things. It doesn’t mean I think that I’m invincible and refuse to believe that anything bad could ever happen to me. But there’s a difference between understanding something is risky and being so worried that you’re too scared to do what you truly want to do.
At the end of the day, I’m not in denial about the reality of risk. I realize that some things I do come with hazards. But I choose to consciously accept risks because I’m not willing to sacrifice things I love at the altar of fear.
Yes, there’s a chance something bad could happen to me while I’m out living my life. I’ve thought about that. Even in the unlikely scenario that something bad happens to me while I’m doing something I love, I believe there is peace in the knowledge that that thing happened to me because I was getting out there and really experiencing life.
The beautiful thing I’ve learned is that we don’t have to immediately dismiss things out of hand just because they’re “risky”. We can choose what we value and accept the risks accordingly. And that’s ok. It’s ok to live with risk. I would rather accept risks if the alternative is missing out on some truly amazing things in my life.
Total safety is an illusion. Eliminating risk is a fairytale.
I choose to unapologetically give myself the freedom to do the things that truly make me feel like I’m living fully.
I don’t want to live a life dictated by fear, but a life driven by the pursuit of joy.