Today I want to talk about risk, anxiety and taking the shot.
In Pokemon Go’s recent update, you (the trainer) are on a hunt to track down the legendary Pokemon Mew. Your journey to track down Mew involves completing a bunch of mostly mundane tasks in the game: spinning PokeStops, catching certain Pokemon, going after gyms and finishing up raids. But the recent tasks often involves attempting to catch elusive Pokemon like Ditto who hides in plain sight. The thing is, Ditto never appears as it is. You have to try and catch a common Pokemon and hope that it’s the rare pink blob. And I’ll emphasize rare and try: Ditto is not common and never has been. There will be many wasted attempts on common Pokemon and that will stress me the math out. On top of that, it often means hunting specific types of Pokemon and attempting different throws which will mean plenty of trial and error, many wasted Pokeballs and lots of energy expended on a game that I’m probably too old to still be playing.
Risk is something I’ve never been fond of. It’s one of the big reasons I love and hate paneling. I have to put in a form and it’s almost never a promise that I’ll be in. I have to trust that I’m good enough at what I do to secure a spot. Anxiety means hating the unknown. And most of life is hilariously unknown. Because of those things, I do my best to remove as much risk from my life as possible. Well, the unnecessary risks. It’s impossible to remove all risk and that’s what makes anxiety at times so painful. But it means that I am super careful even when doing something as simple as playing a video game. I go after safe bets and do my best to never go into a bout that I don’t feel prepared for. And losing in a game is one of the best things I’ve found to help me cope with my anxiety. Losing in Street Fighter makes me face challenge head on. Trying to be Champion in Pokemon keeps me honest and makes me train my whole team and go only when I feel I can handle it.
Losing keeps me humble but it also stresses me out.
While normally, I’m pretty good at being mature and celebrating when my friends win fair and square (seriously, you should watch Carlos and I duel. I’m usually so proud when he defeats me.). But in some games, it actually causes me a fair amount of emotional distress. Picking up Street Fighter again to play against the boys has been an emotional rollercoaster! I feel inadequate for losing and not picking up motions despite me being excellent at this game when I was younger. I’ve gotten over some of that stress but I do my best to continue to get good enough to one day defeat one of the boys.
But it isn’t just video games that are sometimes affected by my aversion to risk. I don’t often try new television shows either. That’s a bit of a double reason, though. I use television often times as noise so it’s comforting to have a rerun on in the background while I write or sew. Something new will take up all of my attention. But I’m also afraid of being bitterly disappointed by a new show. I’m scared that I won’t like something and that there’s something wrong with me for not liking something that is popular. I pick safe bets and franchises that are familiar because there’s no chance in being disappointed by a rerun.
It also means being afraid to try new foods or new bars. I’m scared that I won’t find a safe menu item that won’t reveal the fact that I’m a secret picky eater. I’m afraid I won’t like a drink as ordered. I’m worried that I’ll be bored during movies because that’s not socially acceptable.
But without risk, there is no reward. I remember hearing that a lot from Carlos during this most recent panel season. A convention took a while to tell us whether we were in or not and I spent weeks in emotional limbo. Carlos spent a lot of time telling that I would miss all the shots I didn’t take. I’ve heard that before but it always rang hollow to me. Even when I was younger and playing softball, I would rather walk to a base than strike out. Sure, you miss some but pitches are unpredictable and stressful. You never know which way that ball is coming, so sometimes it’s best to stand still and calculate that risk first, right?
If I didn’t take a risk on paneling, I wouldn’t have found it to be one of the most rewarding things in my life. If I didn’t take the risk of moving away, I wouldn’t have found my own voice and my own two feet. If I didn’t take the risk of removing and adding people to my life, I would never have found the support group that I cherish.
And that doesn’t mean I don’t get to relish in some of the thrill of the unknown. I never know how any one panel will go and the thrill of the stage can be as exhilarating as it is exhausting.
You do miss all the shots you don’t take. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand or empathize with the fact that risk is utterly terrifying sometimes.
I’m still hunting for that Ditto. I’m still trying those tasks in the game that make me uncomfortable or take me out of my comfort zone. That isn’t all bad. I couldn’t imagine that when I picked up Pokemon Go years ago that it would end up being so therapeutic. It became one of the many ways I connect to the people I care about. But the game makes me focus on a goal and task and that is very useful for someone who struggles with the abstract concept of just being alive on this planet.
UPDATE: I did catch the Mew.