Spoiler alert: I haven’t mastered it.
This past Thursday, my little IG live stream festival focused on the theme of Care. Archaeologists, musicians, adventurers and I discussed (and sang about) what it means to care about people, places, parks, the planet–you know, just the inconsequential things.
Today, the theme is Risk. Here’s the lineup:
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity and the privilege to watch one of my dearest friends, Devon Schindler, put herself forward on social media in a really interesting, meaningful way. First, she asked a very simple question: what did everyone want to be when they were fifteen? Why? And what does fifteen mean for them now?
She donated money on behalf of each person who answered to help buy ventilators in Italian hospitals. Next, she turned to me and said, “I want us to share the friendship we have with the world. I want to show people, especially young girls or anyone who ‘feels 15,’ that we can have discussions about belonging and drive and endurance and philosophy in public.”
For me, this whole story bridged the themes of care and risk in my mind:
Care for who we were years ago, care for those who are in that same awkward phase, care for people affected by this maddening pandemic, care for young girls who want to pursue careers in STEM.
Risk because living out loud–and especially living a deep, meaningful friendship out loud–is an act of vulnerability.
Our conversations–and, as a result, my thoughts–have turned to the subject of interoceptive awareness, which is defined as the awareness of the body’s internal processes.
Years ago–especially when I was fifteen, nineteen, or even twenty-one–my attitude towards risk was very much along the lines of: “That sounds like a goalable goal! Let’s goal it!”
Gung-ho and determined to staunch my anxiety, I would launch myself at the next challenge. I wasn’t aware of how much anxiety affected my life. As a result, I also didn’t know what was really me driving and what was anxiety driving me. It was hard to understand the nuances of what I cared, but I could very clearly feel I cared.
Over the past few years, learning to reconnect with my body after disordered eating, mental health issues, and coming off of anti-depressants has been, at times, a painful lesson in interoceptive awareness.
This is what frustration feels like–that tightness in your head, behind your eyes, wondering why people can’t see what you see. This is hurt, that broken feeling between your ribs, the energy draining from your feet. This is hunger. This is joy–that effusive brightness that just wants to see, to love, to appreciate. This is the joy of reading. This is what creativity feels like, that energy swirling around you. This is what is what recovering feels like: feeling all of it.
This process has included many steps and elements: intuitive eating, a greater sense of body neutrality, and time away from endurance sports. It’s meant weight gain and weight loss, a gradual bodily re-centering. Finally, it meant settling back into what I love–writing, academics, and adventure-endurance sports–with greater vigor than before.
Now that I feel like I have some grasp on my internal compass again, I feel a deep drive to take meaningful risks.
It’s not the “that goal sounds goalable, let’s goal it!”
Instead, it’s a slow, growing intentionality in the context of supportive friendships and relationships.
Both Devon and I are infatuated with endurance sports and adventure. We love the push and the pull. For her, it’s ultra-running; for me, it’s climbing mountains. These pursuits inform frame many of our discussions and ideas.
And as I’ve been prepping for the Instagram live festival this week, I’ve thought a lot about risk. What we risk in friendships, relationships, family, pursuits–basically, what we risk in caring about anything.
Over the almost-three years since graduating from the University of St Andrews and moving back to PA, there have been a lot of risks in my perrsonal. Many of them have been massively unexpected. Some of them really hurt.
Failed ventures. A car crash. A second concussion. A 17′ ground fall that, while it left me uninjured, did leave me shaken and scared.
There were family difficulties and mental health struggles. I came off of anti-depressants and sTruGglEd.
And now, we’re in a pandemic.
The world feels like a risky, dangerous place.
But I feel much more equipped to handle this, to navigate this. I’ve watched Devon put herself forward in so many ways, again and again. I’ve watched Nick pull off countless amazing things in his life, both on and off the wall.
There are also so. many. good risks: getting back on the wall, falling in love, re-encountering academics outside of academia, sharing ideas, and the growth of the deepest friendships of my life.
This pandemic has made it clear to me that I care about my role in this society and that I feel like the impact I want to have is worth fighting for.
It’s scary, but good risks are everything.
That’s why I’m excited to think about risk with everyone today. Tune in at 5:30pm EST today to @circumspectacles.
Maybe I’ll collect all my thoughts re: risk at some point soon. But for now, I’m just excited to hear what everyone else has to say.