Adrenaline junkie – sex, drugs and a good crossword

Yesterday I was on the way to the park with my sister Annabel and we pulled up behind a car that had a ‘Help the Heroes’ car sticker in the back.

“Do you think we should celebrate soldiers as heroes?” Annabel asked me. That’s the kind of heavy debate we go in for on a Thursday afternoon.

“Well…” I stalled, trying to come up with a suitably thoughtful answer, “I don’t know.” (Lame) “I certainly wouldn’t want to do what they do.”

And that’s true enough, but then I wouldn’t want to clean toilets for a living, or pack biros in a biro factory, or milk cows, or run marathons, or a million other things.

We got to talking about just what drives people to join the army in the first place. As you may be able to guess, the thought of having to get up early, clean stuff obsessively and run about in the desert with a massive heavy bag on my back doesn’t particularly appeal, much less the actual having to kill and be killed part. Obviously.

Annabel said that friends of hers who had been in the forces have said that they felt they ‘hadn’t lived’ until they’d seen active service. Maybe that’s true, maybe there is a certain sense of adventure, achievement, and camaraderie that you get from work like that, that I just can’t appreciate.

I’m not really convinced though. I’m sure it’s amazing for some people, but I’m pretty damn sure that finding myself tired, hungry, hot and under enemy fire wouldn’t suddenly make me feel glad to be alive. More likely it would just make me wish I was at home, having a nice sit down and a cup of tea.

So then that got me wondering if not craving that kind of challenge or excitement meant I was missing out on some deeper meaning to life. I’ve never been a thrill seeker in the ‘snowboard down a mountain in a blizzard’ sense, I just don’t see the appeal, but does that make my life less fulfilling, does it mean I’m wired up wrong or, heaven forbid, just a boring person?

It’s not that I’m scared to try new things, or to have adventures, I just don’t seem to get the same rush from physical challenges that some people have. I’ve been on plenty of rollercoasters, I’ve done supposedly scary things, but it just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve even jumped out of a plane. I wasn’t in the least bit scared, but neither was I blown away. To be honest, the whole free-falling thing was pretty dull. You just hang there in the air, you can’t even really feel you’re moving. Sure, you’re high up and all, but apart from that..meh…

Annabel was very comforting. She feels the same, and convinced me that it’s just proof of our superior intelligence (we need to find comfort somewhere), a sign that our brains are self-sufficient, and that we don’t need all that external physical stimulus. As she put it, “we’re the kind of people who can get all the stimulation we need from a good puzzle.” Quite true.

So, what is it then that drives some people to push themselves further and further physically? What do you reckon, am I missing out on something, or is it acceptable to gets your kicks from a coffee and the crossword? And more importantly, does the fact that I have no strong desire to scale sheer cliff faces with no rope make me terribly dull?



  1. 4 June, 2010 / 6:12 pm

    re crosswords I think you should go nuts and simply not rest on your laurels – if you can do the Guardian quick crossword then can you do the cryptic for example? If so I am in awe of you. I can do the quick crossword but only after the sugar high of a hazelnut chocolate bar.

    I am the same as you – I don’t even drive on the highway let alone jump out of plane. I’m like “statistically driving on the highway means I will probably have an accident and become a paraplegic so why risk it?” I mean i have nice legs and also I quite enjoy walking!

    • 4 June, 2010 / 7:00 pm

      I can only do the quick one, my brain just doesn’t think cryptically, I obviously need more practise.

      I know what you mean about driving. I compare EVERYTHING I do to the risk of being injured in an RTA! Whenever anyone worries about something I do the comparison – like mums driving their kids to school because they’re worried they’ll get snatched or something ridiculous – I point out the kid is much more likely to be hurt on the way to school in a car crash. Reassuring I think.

  2. 4 June, 2010 / 9:40 pm

    I think there are some people who only really feel alive when they are close to the possibility of death you know? Risk taking behaviour can (believe it or not) be a way to manage feelings of anxiety.

    • 5 June, 2010 / 8:17 am

      Yes, that’s a good point. I might not jump of cliffs or anything but I definitely take more risks (i.e. do more stupid things) with other areas of my life when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. Does that mean though that the army is full of people struggling with anxiety??

  3. 4 June, 2010 / 9:47 pm

    I ran the London Marathon a couple of years ago but only for a bet!! Everybody gets their kicks from different things so you should just go mad and try the New York Times crossword……man, I too dumb for it ;-)

    • 5 June, 2010 / 8:18 am

      You run the marathon for a BET? Did you train, or was it a night before over a curry ‘Yeah sure, I could do THAT’ kind of bet?!

  4. Lucy
    6 June, 2010 / 7:13 pm

    I am not a risk taker. I cry for weeks before deciding to re-paint a room…

    • 13 June, 2010 / 11:43 am

      Well, Farrow and Ball is basically an investment purcahse, it needs careful thought.

  5. 6 June, 2010 / 8:15 pm

    I love my children and will support them – as much as I able – in whatever they choose in life. But, I will not be punching the air if:

    They join the army, become a happy clapper or become a member of the far right.

    Everything else I can deal with, live with or just accept but becoming dead, deluded or stupid is not something I can work through…

    • 13 June, 2010 / 11:45 am

      Hmm… I see what you mean, but I wouldn’t actually mind if they found God. I’ve never had any kind of faith at all (in anything), but have always thought it might be quite nice to have such a comforting delusion. If they joined the Young Conservatives or something though…. there’s deluded and there’s Deluded.

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