I was woken yesterday by the living room wiggling, literally. I was snuggled up on my sister’s San Francisco couch, still deep in early morning sleep when I groggily stirred to the sensation of the couch, the walls, the entire house wiggling beneath me. Well that’s weird, I thought, I wonder how long this will last? The wiggling continued for several more seconds, long enough that for a brief instant I worried, is it going to get worse?

As quick as the movement had come, though, it was gone again and I sat shaking my head. Greta strode out of her bedroom at the end of the hall, a towel wrapped around her head. “Did you feel that?” she asked. “It was an earthquake!”

“What?” I asked, still groggy, still not registering what had happened.

“It was an earthquake,” she repeated. “That’s the worst one we’ve had since we moved here.” Well, I thought, how about that?

Before moving to San Francisco, I was, of course, aware of the fact that earthquakes exist here. Given the catastrophic repercusions of the previous quakes in 1906 and 1989, San Francisco’s shakes and tremors are no mystery to the rest of the world. But earthquakes weren’t the first thing that came to mind when I decided to move here, in fact, they’re at the tail end of considered factors. I’m still too caught up in the outstanding beauty, hilly terrain, dense swirling fog, Pacific waves and, of course, the layers on layers of creativity and ingenuity born over the years among these rolling city streets.

But that wiggling this morning got me thinking. How often do we choose our destinations based on natural conditions? Well, maybe I am just asking how often I do. Kansas for instance-I wouldn’t move to Kansas, because 1) it’s too flat and 2) tornadoes. But, if I was really into farming, or the Wizard of Oz, I might think that Kansas is worth moving to despite the tornado potential.

So, my move to San Francisco was based mostly on my love of culture and energy of the west coast, despite the earthquake potential. Which gets me thinking more–how often do we base our decisions to do, or not do, something based on fear?  This is wider reaching than just deciding not to move to Kansas because of tornadoes, this gets into our everyday life decisions. What experiences do people miss out on because they err on the side of caution, rather than taking a risk? It’s as simple as not walking down a particular street with amazing wall murals because you’ve heard it’s ‘a bad part of town,’ deciding to never travel overseas because you are certain the plane will crash, or choosing not to marry someone because you are ‘afraid’ things won’t work out.

My point is that sometimes the experience is worth the risk. Perhaps that is foolish, especially considering recent predictions that the San Andreas fault is ready to start shaking–and shaking badly–at any moment. Truthfully though, and perhaps this is my 24 year old naivety speaking, I would much rather experience the thriving life, culture and opportunity of this city while it is here as it is than stay away because I’m afraid.

That’s not to say I will pay no mind to the seismic action occurring in the oceans; informed risk taking is the most responsible sort. But, right now, I’m here–we’re all here–in this moment and we should live it.

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