Take a Risk

You’d think we’d take greater risks as we get older.  Young people take risks.  They have their whole lives ahead of them, so much potential, so much to live for, and yet seem willing to take inordinate risks with their time and choices and fitness and health.  Older people, not so much.  Yet, having completed a substantial part of their lives, having (perhaps) achieved their goals, having seen their children out of the nest … you’d think that would be the time to step out, do something radical or outrageous.

But it doesn’t seem to happen that way, so much.  Why not?

Well, there are some obvious reasons: there are brain development factors for a start!  The young brain lacks … well, most things.  The older brain is more cautious and conservative (perhaps because the older person has acquired more, has more to conserve).  Perhaps the closer we get to end-of-life, the more tenacious our survival instincts become, so more risk-averse.  Or perhaps we just get more chickenhearted.

Whatever the reason, what about it?
I saw a thing on TV (yeah, I know, younger people don’t watch TV either; older ones do) presented by a middle-aged guy called, appropriately, Guy.  Guy Martin, actually.  A blue-collar likely lad (from Grimsby).  For the programme, he was training with the Royal Marines for a re-enactment of the World War Two D-Day landings, by parachute – training for something he’d never done before and had no obvious aptitude for.  He did pull it off, magnificently, and my heart was stirred.  How wonderful to recapture those adrenaline-filled moments of crazy, no-limits youth!

Those days of adventure, of testing yourself against the unknown, of challenge and comradeship.  Making your way in the world against all odds.

As we age, to be sure, we acquire responsibilities – and we become more responsible human beings.  As well, our physical capacities decline and adventure opportunities lessen, so doors close to us.  Some have a fling.  Some buy a motor bike.  Some get a camper van and go touring or travelling.  Some take up a hobby.  Well and good.  All of these fill some of the need, but … do they really?  Youthful joys still fade and wither, figments now of a rosy memory, inflating in the telling.  (“The older I get, the better I was”!)

Well, life is to be lived, surely, at every stage, in every context.  The cards in front of us, even if they’re a poor hand, need to be played for all they’re worth, with energy and enthusiasm and gratitude.  Get your camper van, by all means, if you can afford it; or join a club, or travel.

Or, for the really cautious, conservative or financially challenged, here are a couple of ideas for stepping out:

  1. Learn something new.  Pick something – anything – preferably something that will stimulate you.  Eg, astronomy, the laws of gridiron, Spanish, juggling or uni-cycling, military history, chess, dancing …  Even better if you can do it with a friend, or a group, or a club. Learn JavaScript coding. Buy a drone.
  2. Write your legacy.  Document what you want people to know about you when you’re gone; what you’d like your grandchildren and descendants to know or be; your reflections on things that were important to you; things you did or thought in your earlier life that you’ve never shared …  If you’re not really a writer, enlist someone who is, to help you, or ghost-write for you – therein is the collegial part.  The comradeship of yore.

Go on.  Brainstorm.  Don’t watch TV. Take a risk.

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