Over our lifetime we are faced with numerous situations where we have to calculate the risk of doing one thing over another. Most often the choice doesn’t represent a life or death outcome but does determine which of many pathways we will walk down. Sometimes the risk is financial and depending on which path we take, represents our quality of life for the next 50 years.
As a college student I was faced with numerous career choices where I had to decide between an education in forestry or business. At the time I was quite passionate about the environment and wanted to be in a job that allowed me to be in the mountains working with wildlife and the ecology of the forest. This career path started when I was a fifteen-year-old working in the Youth Conservation Corps, a program for kids ages 15 to 21 working for the USFS. This program was an excellent way to see the big picture of forestry.
Things looked good for this career path right up to the point where I realized there were few jobs in forestry outside the employment of the federal government. Being a full time, career path employee of the federal government just didn’t have the pizazz that I hoped it would. I came to the realization that if I wanted to make a good living I would have to look outside the government.
Business seemed a better way to make a living and that’s the route that I pursued – right up to the point that I switched to a journalism/liberal arts major that enabled me to graduate from college one year sooner than if I was a business major. Looking back, I think I can say that the gamble paid off.
Aside from career paths, accepting various levels of risk in everyday life are just a part of the game.
For a number of years our family drove a Chrysler minivan, a vehicle that my wife really loved. It was a great car but lacked any of the modern safety features like anti-lock brakes and airbags. Since much of our travel involved driving long distances to see family we realized that we weren’t in a very safe vehicle should something happen. After weighing the risks, we decided to upgrade to a vehicle that had airbags, anti-lock brakes and other safety features to protect our valuable cargo.
Having our children vaccinated was another one of those risk decisions we had to make. Do we make sure our kids are vaccinated at the risk of one of them having a bad reaction, or do we join the anti-vax crowd that refuses to expose their kids to a bad reaction from the vaccine but instead puts them at risk from one of the many childhood illnesses they can get when not vaccinated? Our kids are all vaccinated.
Then there are the risks of this COVID-19 virus that is sweeping across the world. How do we mitigate the potential of becoming exposed to this new virus? For our family it means using some good judgement about where we go, who we are exposed to, and how many times we wash our hands in a day. But not everybody we are surrounded by is making the same good choices.
One of my childhood friends is currently in Israel on vacation. His trip includes various stops in the Mediterranean and includes a stop in Italy, one of the highest outbreak countries in the world. I think he is out of his mind, but he seems confident nothing bad will happen.
Closer to home, my wife’s little sister just took her family to Disneyland in Southern California. She says the crowds are light and there are few lines to stand in, but how does she have any idea what anybody else has or where they have been. About thirty years ago we took our daughter, Michelle, to Disneyland only to have her manifest with chickenpox the day after we were in the park. Though I don’t know the exact count, I have no doubt that we would have exposed hundreds of kids to the chickenpox. Had we known she had chickenpox we wouldn’t have gone to the park, but we didn’t have a clue – and that’s how these illnesses spread to seemingly unconnected people.
I can’t help but worry that my sister-in-law that is in Disneyland today, or any member of her family, could easily be exposed to the COVID-19 Virus as they enjoy all that Disneyland has to offer, bringing it home to sicken those of us that chose not to go to Disneyland. My wife’s parents are in their 80’s and her father would be very susceptible to the COVID -19 virus. Like it or not, once she’s home she shouldn’t have any connection to her parents for at least 14 days after she gets home from Disneyland. She is also a hair stylist so anyone she comes into contact with by cutting their hair could become exposed, provided that she is in fact carrying the virus, which we hope she isn’t.
These are all risks they take that I would never consider taking. I just hope it’s worth it.