Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chicken

I grew up in the safety net of the small-town Midwest during the economic ashtray of the '70s. Second generation to salt-of-the-earth, depression-era families, I was reared in the mindset that the best life is the self-sacrificing life...that the present moment exists primarily as a means to plan for the future...that hard work and persistence and carefully-calculated, safe decisions are the preferred path...that deviance from that path is self-indulgent and frivolous and irresponsible. I am the product of time-honored truisms about birds in the hand and the folly of unhatched chickens...and lesser-known adages like "You can't drive in the snow until you learn how to drive in the snow"...and "We can't drive the new car until it's got some miles on it!"...and the persistent belief that grilled chicken which has not been parboiled is a quick and certain way to get salmonella.

In short, I was not bred to be a risk taker.

I've managed to buck that trend a bit. Sometimes I'll leave the second-story bathroom window unlocked. I take the Metro after dark. I'll often drive a full 10 mph over the speed limit. I like my burgers pink in the middle. My gas tank sometimes dips well below half in the winter. I currently have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage. And I believe my car has now been 4,000 miles without an oil change. Crazy, huh?

But when it comes right down to it...when it comes to the really big risks that could yield really big rewards, I just don't seem to have it in me. I didn't pursue a career in Theater after college despite the promise my Director saw in me. I've never left a job without having another one already lined up. I never took a summer to amble around Europe.

Don't get me wrong...it's not as though my life is merely a series of regrets. I have plenty to be proud of and thankful for....there has been a host of good on this slow, steady, calculated path. But there is a part of me that always wonders... What if I'd been braver? What if I'd trusted life/God/the Universe/myself to take care of me in the midst of a really significant leap of faith? What if I'd actually believed in myself enough to know with certainty that I could deal with any situation?

It's a plague of imagination to be able to see the many paths in life while knowing that I can only take one...to be able to ask unanswerable questions...to acknowledge the full spectrum of the possible without actually experiencing all of it. It's a life marked deeply by the dual-natured manifestation of my mother's optimism and my father's pessimism....always warring within me.

So I will, it seems, always dream colorful, vivid dreams of "what if?"...I will immerse myself in the idea that the payoff will be worth the risk...I will analyze the possibility to the Nth degree....I will step up to the razor's edge of the unknown and squint into the fog of the future...

...and then I will, as I always do, slowly back away and chastise myself soundly for having considered such ill-advised plots...I will ground myself in the solid life of the known and pragmatic...and I will land uncomplaining (with a sigh only barely audible) exactly where I seem to belong: in the safety net of birds in the hand and parboiled chicken.

4 comments:

BASSO said...

..or Owl. Wise, centered and capable of picking the right moment. Safe, pragmatic, but wise....

ImpetuousProse said...

You are truly a light to which we all are drawn. You're not as careful as you might fear. And we all love this about you...

towwas said...

Have you seen the chicken dance yet on Arrested Development? It's, like, the best thing ever.

Reid said...

sorry, that part's over. Hold my hand, time to jump...