The Risky Business of Middle Age

May 2, 2018

Yesterday an interview on the radio reminded me that young people were usually risk adverse. Bloody lucky them hey? All free and easy and posting magnificent and exciting stories on Snapchat, all while looking like a bunny rabbit.

It immediately struck me that their risk taking was because they hadn’t had enough bad stuff happen to them as yet.  They hadn’t felt the consequences of choosing straight Cointreau on ice as your drink of choice on a pub crawl. Nor had they decided getting into a car with a drunk person wasn’t ideal.  Or sex without contraception would be totally cool and there would be no baby at the end of it.

I envy their not knowing.  I love the fact that those younger than myself have only carry-on sized emotional baggage and they are out there jumping off cliffs and tossing their jobs in to go and Instagram the world.  It made me think about the realities of what makes us middle aged and cautious and how that was working out for us. (Pretty boring and a little bit shit). I began to seek out the subtle undertones in our media and our culture which spoke to our fears and put us back in our comfy mid-life boxes.  They are there, putting us snuggly on our couches or on structured tour holidays or at Bunnings, every single weekend…

But we could find ourselves living well into our eighties or beyond and I don’t want to remain that wrapped up in caution and fear for another 30 odd years. The question is how do you shake off the locked-up, timid and weighty expectations of how badly things can go and get back into the world with a new verve for adventure?

Firstly, you take a big long look at the size of your life.  How far do you wander outside of your routine? When was the last time you set up an adventure featuring some or all those things on your unwritten bucket list? Have you decluttered, unfollowed, cancelled or said no simply to make some space for the new to come flooding into your realm?  Have you done anything remotely new in the last week? Month? Year?

And how do you go with that niggling feeling of ‘not sure’?  That annoying voice in your head telling you not to bother, leave it for others or ‘I can’t possibly do that.’  It’s all lies you know. Lies concocted by yourself to keep you small and contained and waiting to die.

Yes you are likely to have decades ahead of you. Please don’t stop growing because life has given you bruises and bumps, disappointment and tears.  Tragedy even, from which you may never recover. But living a whole and full life still awaits you. It’s begging you, if only you listen to what remains in your heart.  

The shift to a completely new life is more and more on the agenda as people use the wisdom of their years and their confidence to recognise the need for change.  Complete shifts in career. Uprooting to a new town or country. Taking up art, music, fitness, cooking, whatever. It’s about understanding that there is so much more time available and with that comes space to explore the second opportunity of life which is available to us.  But if we stay stuck and risk adverse we will be the only ones to blame when we find ourselves lonely and a shell of our former selves.

Removing fear and caution is a process.  It requires us to examine each concern, sit within the uncomfortable embrace of it and eventually unattach ourselves from it completely.  One by one, step by step, we strip away those things which contain us and are able to see the bright lights of new experiences and the wonderous emotions that often come with them.

Start small maybe. Stay up later and watch the moon.  Walk a different route. Take yourself on an excursion.  Enrol in a course. But don’t spend your most valuable years waiting to cark it. Remember how it was when you didn’t know all the stuff that could happen to you, or all of the stuff you managed to get away with? Older and wiser, pushing your limits will provide a long-missed buzz of adrenalin.  Nothing like being in life to make you feel visible and alive. Time to get your skates on. Your knees will be fine. 

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