I was sitting on a bench on the playground this afternoon, with my broken ankle propped up on my scooter, while my husband and daughter played on the slides. While she was there some older girls arrived, perhaps around 10 years old, and began playing as well. The big girls were fairly considerate of the little ones but I was keeping a sharp eye on the situation regardless, and one of the older girls really caught my attention. She was fearless. She was doing flips on the bar over the slide. She was jumping from the twisty slide to the main platform, a jump of about five feet made at least four feet off the ground. She was very graceful and did not fall or get hurt. I was quite impressed, watching her, although the Mommy part of my brain was cringing realizing that my two year old daughter was also avidly watching her.
I wonder what it’s like to be so fearless. I have always been a physically cautious person, even as a child. Before my ice skating debacle I’d never broken a bone. I don’t climb mountains, I don’t bungee jump, and I don’t jump out of airplanes. When I’m out hiking I wear sunscreen, carry lots of water and snacks, and always make sure to have a charged cell phone in case something goes wrong. I’ve gone white water rafting but only with experienced guides and I make sure to wedge myself very firmly into the raft and paddle hard. And in reality, while I like being on the water, I don’t really like the fear of the white water part that much. It’s more something to get through so I can enjoy the rest of the beautiful environment. At heart, and I think by inborn nature, I’m a risk-adverse person. I’m cautious. I test things out before committing myself. It’s a safer strategy, but I do wonder sometimes what it would be like to be different. I wonder what I might be missing.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to suddenly become reckless. In fact, I imagine after my recent misadventure I will probably be even more cautious physically. I do not like being in pain and feel strongly motivated to avoid future painful accidents. I just wonder, that’s all. I suppose if I were a less cautious person I wouldn’t be me, but I wonder. How would it feel to casually flip over the bar above the sliding board and leap from platform to platform in midair, never worrying about the hard ground below. Would the exhilaration be worth the fall that will eventually come?