On Being a Risk Taker

Ben and I were talking about this the other day. He was comparing himself, an extremely risk averse person, to me and some other more risky friends of ours. I don’t consider myself as much of a risk taker as some other people I know, but that may just be because I grew up with people who weren’t risk-takers so much as they were totally reckless.

But the thing about risk is that every person has their own internal barometer for danger, a short list of shit we’re willing to bet because that’s what we’re willing to lose. There’s a thrill in putting so much value on the table, in betting so much on yourself. Not just in the possibility of winning, but in the possibility of losing too.

The things that seem like risks to a normal person, aren’t actually risks to thrill seeking person. These are the people who, on at least some level, want to crash and burn. They get a little bit excited what the prospect of living in their car… again. They think that the idea of “shaking things up” is interesting and fun.

From my perspective, going out on my own and starting my own marketing firm (thus far a firm of one, but there are higher hopes for years to come) wasn’t that risky. I faced the prospect of not being able to pay rent, bills. Of being demoralized, of Ben leaving me if things got bad enough. This is going to sound callous, but that was all an acceptable loss. I’ve lived in my car before, I’ve gone hungry before, and I’ve been alone before. Although between you and me I was 99% sure I could pull up from any nose-dive before Ben walked out on me.

There’s a certain manic freedom in having absolutely nothing. Some of the best days of my life happened when the only things of value I owned were an 18 year old truck and a 20 year old skateboard. And some of the worst days of my life were spent surrounded by wealth.

This is actually the problem I have with gambling. When you gamble with money, all you stand to gain or lose is money. How fucking dull. I like to gamble whole lifestyles away.

One of the things I love and hate about freelancing is the drama. It’s so compelling. Do I win the contract and save the farm, or do I fuck it up and pitch us into poverty and homelessness? So exciting.

This is why you shouldn’t wish to be a risk taker. No man bets anything he isn’t prepared, on some level, to lose. If you don’t have anything like that in your life, play close to the vest. We can’t all be running in the same direction. I’m glad I have a cautious boyfriend. He helps keep things in perspective when I’m ready to turn our lives into a social experiment.