The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.

The Cautious Gene

What is it that makes some people crave safety and control, even in athletic situations (my husband), while others are having the most fun when they’re just on the edge of a complete and total blow-up (me)? Is it something we’re born with or something we develop?

I have one athletic friend who expressed a desire not to have children. When I asked why, his response entailed his mother (Freud, anyone?). His mom was an aggressive biker, skier and all around play-mate with his father. However, after they had kids, she stopped skiing the steeps and toned the biking way, way down. She explained that the consequences seemed too severe. My friend was knew that his eventual partner would also be an athletic woman and wanted her to stay that way.

So is that the key? An understanding of consequences? If so, wouldn’t all the pro skiers who have broken clavicles and femurs tone it down after their injuries? Instead, those that can seem to aggressively tackle physical therapy and often return to heli-ski another day. I myself have broken a few bones and torn a few ligaments, yet those pesky little things have done little to cramp my go-fast style. Instead, I think this comes down to a basic economics concept: cost benefit analysis.

We all have different lines for what we are willing pay for a good or service. Is someone cleaning your house worth $5 to you? How about $500? Is the best cancer treatment worth $10,000? What if it costs $1,00,000?  $500,000? For me, the benefit (adrenaline rush, focus, feeling of accomplishment) of riding my favorite single-track faster and faster is worth the potential cost of crashing. Usually (not always), I find the fear of crashing is worse than the crash itself. But even I have lines, and I’ve drawn that at class V whitewater. The risks are high and my enjoyment is not, so I just don’t go on it anymore.

So will this change after I have kids? It’s a possibility. But what will be even more interesting is to see what happens when a cautious and non-cautious gene combine. Stay tuned…

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