Taking risks – by Helen May

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Throughout my life, I have taken risks: when I chose my A level subjects there was the risk that I would not pass; when I went to university, there was the risk I would be homesick; when I started my first (and every) job, there was a risk I would not enjoy it.

These are risks that most people take and whilst I took them with some apprehension, I took them because “that’s what you do”.

There have been other risks which most people wouldn’t take: when I chose to be an engineer, there was a risk my male colleagues would not accept a woman; when I chose to live in Australia for two years, there was a risk I would be lonely; when I chose to buy my first house by myself, there was a risk I would not be able to afford the mortgage.

I classify these as “life risks”. Ones I don’t have to make, but ones that could (and have) lead me to have a fulfilled life.

Then there are adventure risks: the risk I could fall when climbing in Cheddar Gorge; the risk I could get lost when trekking in Nepal; the risk I could meet some rebels when tracking gorillas in Uganda.

I have had a choice with all these risks. I could take the easy life; I could stay at home; I could adopt a “safe” hobby. But then I risk being bored, frustrated and regret not doing more. These risks are made through calculated choices.

And many risks are not as risky as they first appear: when climbing, I check my rope and climbing equipment; I climb with other people I know and trust; if I climb outdoors, I only climb when the weather is good. I take away the risks that are under my control.

Likewise, when I moved to Australia, I contacted the few people I knew out there; I pre-paid my parent’s phone bill so we could talk if I needed to; I joined a gym to meet people. I reduced the risk that I would be lonely by making sure I was in touch with some people when I got there.

Living with diabetes is constantly living with a risk that I could get some complication like nephropathy or neuropathy or retinopathy. Unlike going to university, it is not a choice that I can make. However, like climbing, I have control of many of the risks: I can eat healthily; I can exercise; I can avoid smoking. And I still have a choice: I could eat the same carefully weighed food every day knowing how many carbohydrates it contains. But then I risk getting bored and missing out on new exciting foods. And that is not a risk I am willing to take.

Having diabetes is a risk but that doesn’t mean I stop taking other risks which make me mentally stronger.

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