I’ve grown up in a very dangerous world. No, no, don’t laugh, this is not something that should be taken lightly. Actually, my world is so dangerous I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m in some extended version of The Hunger Games or something. So, congratulations to me. I’m turning 23 in less than a week and I’m not dead yet. I must be a born survivor.
Actually, I’m not. Not any more than most of you are. I consider my world to be fairly safe when compared to those in real danger. I’ve grown up in Northern Europe, had a proper education, quite a big roof over my head and access to more food than I should eat. I’ve never had to worry about having enough to drink. I’ve seen people die, but only from old age. When I woke up startled in the middle of night with the sound of gunshots echoing in my head, I had my mom there to tell me it was just a dream. It always was.
But I grew up making my own cup of tea when I came home. I got to walk to and from school by myself. Sometimes I didn’t wash my hands before dinner. I didn’t always have an 11 o’clock snack with me. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked to strangers — how well did I really know that guy who always walked his dog near school? I patted his dog one time and barely pulled away my hand in time. I’ve played doctor with kids who, for all I knew, might’ve been sick for real. I’ve lived dangerously, wildly, right? No? Wait ’til you hear this: I climbed trees.
Actual trees. Ones you can fall out off and die. Trees not specifically certified for climbing by an arborist. We didn’t establish any rules other than “if you fall and cry, you’re out,” but apparently there are rules we should’ve followed. Guidelines on how to take make sure you take all the fun out of it. Rule 5 here for example: “Always think about falling.” Next time you go into an important meeting, tell yourself to think about failing. Think about the warmth spreading from your heart to your already sweaty palms and reddening face. Think about forgetting your speech and being laughed at. Loudly. By all your co-workers, your boss and the girl from administration with those pretty green eyes. If you think about that “then chances are you will proceed cautiously” and that, of course, is the trick to success. It has nothing to do with taking risks and faking confidence until you’ve made it safely through.
“The safest way to climb trees is with a helmet and a harness.” No shit, Sherlock. As is the safest way to do the dishes and your groceries. We probably should wear helmets in cars and airplanes as well and perhaps even at home and to bed, just to be on the safe side. Ever fell asleep reading a book only to awaken immediately because you let it fall out of your hands? Or couldn’t resist the urge to read a text in the middle of the night but were so sleepy you let your phone fall on your face? You could buy helmets matching your sheets, or ones resembling stuffed animals or ones that’d make you look like Batman. I think I found my niche.
What is this? Parents are being told not to let their kids climb trees and are scolded if they don’t pack a morning snack for school. Because surely what we need is to eat more and stay safely put. Risk management seems based on possibility instead of probability and yes, maybe it decreases the chances of us dying. But it surely decreases the chance of feeling alive.
I encourage everyone to climb a tree this week. Wear a helmet and a harness if you like, cover the ground in pillows if you’re so keen on falling and give it a go. I bet that most of us can’t even make it two meters off the ground, because our arms can’t support us and we’re not flexible enough to move from branch to branch — but hey, at least we’re safe.