Taking Risks

20 Apr Taking Risks

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 25.4.22


A wild thought hits me as I walk into the airport – this feels like the riskiest thing I’ve done this year.

Not the flying part. While I couldn’t explain the physics that keep craft in the air to a curious child, I’m happy to trust that someone else knows how it works – and what needs to be done to keep it working – and there are people in the cockpit who are all over this like a rash.

No, the bit that felt risky was suddenly being in close proximity to so many people. I’ve barely left the house since Omicron arrived – occasional brisk romps around the supermarket, a couple of jobs in a room with a handful of people who have just tested negative, and masked indoor gatherings with people I know. Also, long walks on the beach and plenty of chats with friends, thanks for asking. It’s just being with strangers that has become novel.

I mentioned on social media recently that, with vaccine passes gone, I felt even less keen to spend time in bars and restaurants. While many people shared the sentiment, a handful were furious with me for failing to go out and bolster our hospitality sector. One went as far as saying that I represented “everything that is wrong with this country” – a big call given child poverty and global warming are at the top of that list, and all I planned to do was stay home and make a sustaining (and sustainable) sandwich.

I’m applying an abundance of caution to my life choices during this pandemic because I’m not as young as I used to be and, while parts of me are excellent, other bits don’t work quite as well as they did. I know a bunch of people in the same boat – my close circle includes friends, young and old, with all sorts of challenges – dodgy tickers, dicky lungs, screwy immune systems, diabetes, MS, and cancer.

What struck me about the angry people was their assumption of bulletproof-ness – that because they are able-bodied, fit and well, then everyone else is, too. There is a failure to imagine other ways of being.

I can see how this happens. When we talk about pandemic public health measures, the people interviewed tend to be disappointed restaurateurs rather than the terrified parents of kids with brain tumours. We’re encouraged to think business owners are the people who represent us, and that people with disabilities are rare.

Yet being “abled” is a temporary status and you never know when that will change.

We make a mistake when we assume everyone is having the same kind of day as we are, or that they enjoy the same privilege of good health as we do. Many of us assess the level of risk we’re prepared to take right now on a daily basis.

Catching this plane felt like a fair trade-off for being able to work and to hug some people I haven’t seen for a long time. Just like, pre-pandemic, I assessed other risks – leaping off mountains and bridges, trekking in Papua New Guinea, visiting war zones, telling jokes for a living, walking alone at night, and getting married three times…

The flight, by the way, was delightfully uneventful – nothing like that time an engine blew on that plane out of Brisbane and we had to make an emergency landing. This trip should work out fine.