If there is something you have never tried before, why would you want to jump to hasty conclusions about whether or not you will like it? If you are someone who is, by nature, afraid of your own shadow, I am not necessarily suggesting you should take up base-jumping or scuba diving. Whatever your comfort level is with anything, whether it be food, social situations, or adventure, why not try to expand your horizons just a little? What’s the worst thing that could happen? You may wind up pleasantly surprised at just how much you like it and open the door to a world of new possibilities.
Let’s start by thinking about food for a second. Unlike other extracurricular activities, we all need to eat. Some of us just happen to live to eat while others purely eat to live.
I stand by the try it once rule in the food department. I’ve eaten gator cakes in Louisiana, snails in Saint Marten, and tripe in an Argentinian steakhouse just to name a few. Two of the three dishes were unbelievably delicious and I would order them again without a second thought. Even though the third was not that noteworthy — and no I won’t tell which one it was for fear of swaying your choices — I do not regret trying it for a minute because it was that open-mindedness that allowed me to appreciate the other two experiences. Depending what your feelings are on those three dishes you are either thinking that I’m not nearly adventurous enough, or you’re sick to your stomach. If you are in Group A, I assure you that was just a mild example of my culinary exploits and did not intend for this to read like a menu.
If you are in Group B, let me point something out that will probably blow your mind. Even the pickiest of eaters I’ve encountered — not counting vegans — eat eggs, hot dogs or chicken nuggets. And why not, they are all staples on children’s menus because of their simple palatability. But eggs, at their purest form, are nothing more than aborted chicken embryos. Leave that egg with its mother long enough and it will hatch. Delicious, right? Hot dogs, which you might already know, are nothing more than a mixture of all the leftover and otherwise unusable parts of a cow including the lips, tongue and feet ground together and formed into a fun easy to handle shape. Chicken nuggets you ask? Depending on the brand they can boast that they are 100% chicken. What does that imply the others are? Why does the list of ingredients read more like a science project? You got it; think back to hot dogs. I’m not trying to make you give up any of your favorite foods — I eat them all as well — just bringing to light that you should not get caught up on what something is before giving it a try.
Beyond food there is a wild world of experiences out there we are given the choice to embrace or shun. Some people choose to live their lives in the confines of a protective bubble for fear that one misstep will be their demise while others embrace any and every thrill seeking moment. You are no closer to dying from a bear attack then you are from diabetes or a heart attack while channel surfing on your couch.
There is a lot of conflicting information when it comes to the statistical likelihood of any number of events happening in your lifetime. For that reason I do not claim any of the odds quoted below are 100% accurate, but I did cross-reference enough sources to know that they are all in the ballpark. Thankfully, I am only trying to illustrate a point on life choices and not perform open-heart surgery. And no, I did not look up the odds of dying during open-heart surgery since that’s not really an option one chooses, yet a product of the other choices they have made along the way.
Almost six years ago my wife and I had a destination wedding in Hawaii with a honeymoon to follow in Bora Bora. It was the trip of a lifetime we both looked very forward to, even if for some different reasons. In the months leading up to the trip we, along with two friends who would be attending the ceremony, decided it would be a good idea to get our scuba diving certifications. Considering we would be halfway around the world for quite possibly the only time in our lives, we all agreed it would be an incredible opportunity to dive the Pacific together. Remarkably, my wife went along with this plan despite her general disdain of the ocean along with fear and abhorrence for most of the mysteries dwelling beneath the surface. Fast forward to the dive boat in Hawaii for our first open water experience and the only question she wanted answered was whether or not there would be any sharks. Had the dive master not assured her that he never encountered any sharks at the particular dive site we would visit I don’t think she would have left the boat. I on the other hand was slightly disappointed we would not get that opportunity, but the dive was still great. By the second site she was a pro and much more comfortable with the experience.
A week later we are sitting on a rickety dive boat in the south Pacific in awe of the varied marine life we just witnessed on our first Bora Bora dive. She was enamored by the swarms of giant manta rays and assorted vibrant fish one usually only gets to see in a Pixar movie. So when we got to the next dive site I thought we would be in business for sure, that was until she asked the same question. The dive master looked at her with enthusiasm, clearly not realizing why she was asking, and replied, “Oh, yeah, lots of sharks. Nurse sharks, lemon sharks, reef…” Before he could even finish her gear was off and she made it clear she was not going, and that I should not either. My response of “you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than attacked by a shark” was quickly met with “you have no chance of a shark attack if you stay out of the water.” I will spare you the rest of the conversation and just say it is amazing I am still married because I dove right in and swam with the sharks despite the 1 in 11.5 million odds they would attack me. Did I almost soil my wetsuit when I reached the bottom of the dive line and saw schools of them circling us? Absolutely! Do I regret the decision for a single minute? Not even close. In fact, it is probably one of my most memorable experiences.
And yes, you read that statistic correctly, the odds of being attacked by a shark are so incredibly low it is staggering. And while her argument made logical sense and could not be numerically disproven, the difference between zero and a fraction of a percent is not going to prevent me from experiencing all of the things life has to offer. Her viewpoint did make me think though; think about what other activities there are that the majority of risk averse people miss out on due to a perceived danger that exists more in their own heads than in the actuarial tables. I don’t want to go through every thrill seeking option, but for the sake of argument let’s talk about two that I am still working up the courage to do myself (and will). Skydiving carries a risk of death for 1 in every 100,000 jumps while bungee jumping is 1 in every 500,000. My disclosure here is that these are under the supervision and guidance of trained and respected establishments, not on the side of a Mexican road during a booze filled spring break.
By comparison, take a look at the odds for the most basic activities that are both in and out of our control.
-Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 9,700
-Being struck by lightning in your lifetime: 1 in 3,000
-Dying in a car accident: 1 in 113
-Being diagnosed with cancer: 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women
By those numbers, it is amazing any of us are still here, right? Even if you swear off driving and flying and lock yourself in a hazardless room like a character in Final Destination, that is not going to stop lightning from tearing through your roof or your body betraying you with a medical malady if the universe decides it to be so. With so many things that are truly out of our control each and every day, why do we continue to shy away from the exhilaration of events we can control under the false assumption that they are what will ultimately become our downfall? Life is too short not to be lived to the fullest.