Sunday, December 4, 2016

Guns, Cars, Boats, Bears, and Skis

By the time I was in fifth grade, I was navigating New York City alone. It wasn't especially dangerous, although certainly more so than it is now. I knew not to talk to strangers of course, and not to stand too close to the edge of the subway platform for fear of falling in (or worse and much less likely, some crazy person pushing me in). 

I knew the parts of the city that were safer than others for a grade schooler to wander. I knew what to do if I got stuck in the elevator of my apartment building, and I knew never to go near my ninth story windows if they were open and unscreened. 

All of these were just hazards of urban life. Heeding them took a certain amount of judgment and an instinct for self-preservation. Fortunately, any one of these mishaps was both statistically unlikely and necessarily coupled with a measure of plain old bad luck.

I thought about this today after I saw someone take a pretty bad fall on the ski hill. It was a simple but pretty serious fall that looked like it could have resulted in paralysis, but fortunately seems not to have. The person who fell wasn't a kid, but watching ski patrol huddle around him made me think about the hazards of living in Alaska, and how different they are than where I grew up. 

I definitely have a lot of anxiety over my kids interacting with this environment. I don't want to scare them, but I also don't want them to drown, get shot, be mauled by a bear, or paralyze themselves doing reckless stuff on skis and snowboards.

"What can you do?" my mom asked me back then. "You live in this city. You can't be in a bubble all the time. You need to learn how to interact with your environment safely and with good judgment." 

That was her message to me, essentially. 

I'm definitely very neurotic about my kids messing with the kind of stuff that kids get into trouble with here: guns, cars, boats, bears, and skis. Mostly cars, really. With guns and boats probably a close second, skis more rarely, and bears hardly ever. 

But what can you do other than teach them how to interact with these things safely? Take classes and courses, educate them, and give them a healthy respect for their own limits and the power of nature and machines? 

I guess that's really all you can do. That, and hope for a little bit of luck.

I really envy people who can casually shrug, say "that's not likely to happen," and move on and have fun all or even most of the time. Prozac has helped me with that somewhat, but I am definitely prone to catastrophic thinking and likely to let my thoughts spool out into worst case scenarios a lot. I can pretend it was all related to witnessing 9/11, and maybe it is on some level, but I think I've always been this way.

All of which reminds me, it's that time of year for a good mental health checkup. I can't totally deal with my neuroses on my own. I need talk therapy and a little bit of medicine to help me, but maybe that isn't such a bad thing. 

After all, if I weren't a little bit crazy, I'd probably definitely be a lot less entertaining to myself.

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