Sunday, June 13, 2010

Risk = Life

For the past year, I've been thinking about risk and what that means:

1) June 26, 2009 -- a discussion of two movies in which men risk everything to save their families; both based on actual events
2) June 30, 2009 -- a contemplation on whether or not risk is the responsible thing
3) July 15, 2009 -- scratch the itch of wanderlust? or stay and put down roots?
4) August 16, 2009 -- taking the small risk of a new form of writing; outlining possible life changes
5) September 7, 2009 -- deciding to serve fear or God

I'm still contemplating risk, specifically moving away from my family and friends to a new state. This is not a new state, however (pardon the pun!): my childhood can be mapped in treks across the country. I used to revel in the excitement of new places. But I have become settled, and I've grown up, and there is no safety net. Soon, I will know once more Bilbo's advice to Frodo in JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings:
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."
Speaking of being swept off, Abby Sunderland, the recently rescued 16-year-old sailor attempting to sail solo around the world, said this in a blog post: (emphasis mine)
There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don't sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn't the time of year it was just a Southern Ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.
As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?
How many of us complain and wring our hands and cast blame for the unexpected, unpleasant, or tragic things that happen to us in our daily lives? To paraphrase Abby, tragedy is part of the deal when you set out to live this life.

As for the criticism her family received for allowing her to circumnavigate the globe alone and so young,
"Sailing and life in general is dangerous," said her father, Laurence. "Teenagers drive cars. Does that mean teenagers shouldn't drive a car? I think people who hold that opinion have lost their zeal for life. They're living in a cotton-wool tunnel to make everything safe." (read more of the SFGate article)

Abby Sunderland challenges me. She faced a vast and unforgiving ocean alone. Prepared, but alone. No guarantee of success or survival.

Compared to that, what's a move across the country?

And why all this foot-dragging? I want to be sure that I am taking the risk for the right reasons and that I'm prepared (mentally and in other ways) should I fail. And, to be honest, I'm still trying to convince myself to take that first step.

Back before the internet was such an integral part of our lives, before MapQuest and Google and GPS helped us navigate our way, we relied on actual maps to guide us. I also listened to my parents fight over who was reading the map correctly -- Mom, hands down -- and learned to plot my own routes by watching how they did it, and by listening to their reasons for taking one road over another.

So, in honor of "the good ol' days" of Rand-McNally road atlases, and as a reminder to myself that I have been more adventurous than I am now, here's a poem from several years ago:


My map is crossed
with thin blue highways
and squiggled yellow highlighter
and fat red interstates.

Do I take the easy ways,
the broad, straight roads
with bright green signs
and regular mile markers
that tick off the time
and make me feel safe?

How can I get lost
with so many things to guide me?

But what if I don’t want to be safe?
What if something tugs me
toward the dust
and the rolling curves
and the green isolation
of the backroads,
toward the towns travelers never see
except when they take the wrong exits

and are lost?

KB, June 2003

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