Last week, I talked about the calculus of risk, about doing the math of when it’s worthwhile to go somewhere, do something, bring weapons for self-defense, or not. When you value each of those factors, one of the things I pointed out was that you are the only one who can put a number or a weight on them.
Some of that is because nobody knows better than you, when you’re being truly honest with yourself, how effective you are or aren’t with any particular self-defense strategy or tool. You are the only one who can be certain not only that you have the skills, but that you have the determination to employ them when necessary. It’s possible that you’re overestimating yourself, but it’s also possible that you’re underestimating yourself, and that’s where the honesty comes in. Training with good instructors who are able to constructively challenge your assumptions helps put up a mirror for you to find out if you can truly be responsive in a crisis, as does spending some time really thinking through what worst-case scenarios look like and confronting all of the fears you might have about what you can and will do. You can practice to standards and have a pretty good idea of whether you have the raw ability to shoot your gun, spray pepper spray into someone’s eyes, and more. You can test yourself to see if you can do those things under stress. You can get help deciding how effective those skills and tools are for different situations. But you’re the one who has to decide if you actually put them into play. Nobody else gets to do that for you.
More importantly, nobody knows better than you how important it is for you to go to a place or to do a thing. The value you place on your employment, on your leisure activities, on that trip you want to take? That’s all on you. Your job may be in a terrible, unsafe location, but it’s your dream job for your dream employer. You may have the opportunity to go on a trip of a lifetime, to see all of the bucket list destinations you’ve always wanted to see, but they’re all places where you can’t bring anything that might even a little bit be construed as a weapon. You’ve met the perfect partner, the love of your life, an ideal match for you in every way except they hate guns so much it’s a deal-breaker for them. While I urge you to always find a way to prioritize yourself and your safety, and to value your needs and desires the most, only you can decide how to rank them against everything else that can be part of your life.
When my favorite band from my teen years came out of retirement and went on tour with another band I loved, and my only choice was to go see them alone and in a state I couldn’t carry my gun and at venue where weapons weren’t allowed? You can bet I didn’t miss that show. It was too fantastic of a chance for me to pass up because I’d have to risk “being defenseless.” Being there was an experience of the sort that meant I was living a life worth defending, so I figured out some other strategies for staying safe and took the leap anyway. If you, however, are not a fan of Live and Counting Crows, then you probably don’t get it and don’t agree that I went into a big crowd on my own and without even pepper spray. And that’s okay. I still went. It was as wonderful of an experience as I’d hoped. Even if it wasn’t, that falls on me.
It doesn’t matter why I wanted to go. That I told you was purely voluntary. I don’t owe you the reasons. In fact, I don’t even owe telling you that I went. I am not subject to your ideas about whether I should have gone, and whether my thought process was correct. It was my decision. Certainly, I’ll listen to the suggestions of those with the right kinds of relationships with me, but ultimately, the choice is mine.
Similarly, you are not obligated to explain or justify why and how you ended up going somewhere or doing something…or not. You need to know them yourself, as part of your analysis. You might want to discuss them with a trusted friend. You might consult with resources like On Her Own to make sure you’re taking into account all relevant factors and to help understand how to weigh them. You don’t have to explain how you got there to anyone, though, because that’s entirely up to you.
Like I said last week….the math is all up to you. You don’t need to share your reasons with others and you don’t have to accept the judgment of others, no matter what you decide.