Is it worth it?
How many times have you asked yourself this question? Maybe it was after the super expensive thing you bought and are having buyers remorse. Maybe it's the years of effort you put into what you thought was your dream job only to find out that company couldn't care less.
Or maybe it's reading about a motorcycle accident that left someone's life on the line..Or the whale trainer and acrobats who have died doing the job they love.
Was the risk worth it? Who's fault was it? What do we do now? Everything we do as a species, from daily driving to extreme sports to exploring the world around us has risks? How do we decide how far to go?
We all make choices to pursue our life's dream (or not). We mitigate the risks that worry us most. My husband rides a motorcycle because he loves the feeling of being unencumbered by a large vehicle, having 360 degree views of the world and utilizing less fossil fuels. He also wears a helmet and leathers every time because he recognizes that the seriousness of his injuries in an accident rise exponentially without them.
When you decide to take on a high risk career, the decision is made to take on all of the known and unknown risks because the result(s), and experience far outweigh the potential downsides. We mitigate the known risks as best we can. A responsible aerialist learns new skills in steps and over mats with a qualified coach. He or she knows every skill and wrap of their routines inside and out. He/She trains, cross trains, rehearses and rests appropriately for their body. Anything that is to be performed is rehearsed repeatedly in similar environments to work out any kinks that might happen due to height, temperature, timing, materials, humidity, etc. Relationships are built with the rigger(s) to ensure they have your best interests in mind and are prepared to properly set you up for success.
There is still an inherent risk in supporting yourself and exerting yourself at heights, or in any extreme sport. No one expected Dale Earnhardt to have an accident while racing or Houdini to not make it out of an illusion in time. I recognize that, I acknowledge it, I own it as part of the choices I make.
The entertainment industry is built on the premise of creating an escape for an audience. Performance is about expression, communicating in a way that words alone cannot and will not suffice. This is art, this is the human condition. I believe we are fueled by our adventures and by pushing just outside our comfort zones. And some of us are very comfortable 30 feet up in the air or 30 feet below the ocean's surface. Those are the boundaries we endeavor to push beyond.
I am not willing to spend my life in a world without art, without exploring new possibilities. I will take appropriate precautions and mitigate the inherent risks which allow me to connect with the world in a way that fulfills me and inspires others to be better versions of themselves.
That, to me, is worth everything.
***Post Script: I also want to acknowledge that these risks become greater the more widespread a sport becomes and the aerial world has grown exponentially in the last decade. The number of unqualified/inexperienced teachers and performers continues to grow as aerial classes become more accessible. Rigging standards for dynamic loads are not standardized or always known/followed around the world, nor are they routinely inspected by overseeing authorities in smaller companies and venues. If you want to hire an aerialist or you're an aerialist wanting to know more about your rigging, send me a message. I'll send you my list of important questions to ask ahead of time to gain confidence in the people you're working with.