Monday, March 26, 2012

Risk Taker

At lunch on Saturday, Cheryl pointed out (twice!) that I’m a risk taker.  I nearly argued the point, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that she’s right.  With full knowledge of the risks, I dated a 45-year old, never-married guy who lived two thousand miles away (and we made it work for a year and a half).  Even realizing that the housing bubble was at its peak, I bought a house in a great neighborhood that’s crazy expensive for a single-income family (and I’ve made it work for four years now).    I embarked on grad school while working full time and parenting full time (and I won awards for my performance in the program).

Of course, I haven’t jumped on every opportunity that’s flitted across my radar.  I’ve agonized over what to do when I could see the reward even though I wasn’t comfortable with the risk.  In those moments of struggle, I feel like a coward clinging to my safe decisions.  In retrospect, maybe those risks were just ones I simply wasn’t meant to take.  And despite my extensive deliberation with myself, maybe I knew I wasn’t meant to take them.

I’m working on a homework assignment for a writing class I’m taking from Joshua Fields Millburn.  We’re submitting answers to 29 questions that span the gamut from the poignant (Why do you write?) to the absurd (Would you rather ride on a train, dance in the rain, or feel no pain?).  One of the questions I struggled with today is “Why did you sign up for this class?”  The truth is that I don’t quite know.  (How’s that for crazy?)  I gave a few hundred dollars to an author I’d barely read for a class with no syllabus and very few details on content except that he would teach us to “write better.” 

On the surface, that sounds like a pretty boneheaded risk.

But the thing is?  I know it’s the right decision, even if I can’t quite quantify why I know.  When I saw the announcement for the class, I didn’t hesitate.  I confirmed my availability (and the cash) and signed up for it on the spot.  Making the decision to take the class was instinctive and effortless…just like the decision to buy my house, to give it a try with a guy across the country, or to add the work of grad school to an already-full life. 

So maybe it’s not that I’m “not a risk taker.”  Maybe, in fact, I’m actually a fairly skilled risk taker with a strong instinct for what is and is not a good risk.  And the definition of “good risk”, by the way, doesn’t have to mean that every detail works out forever.  Relationships change.  Houses need repair.  School is exhausting.  But it’s all worth it.  Had I not listened to my gut, had I passed on these risks, I never would have understood the depth of their rewards.

I believe that every risk comes with a lesson – an opportunity to learn something.   Whether the writing class actually makes me “write better” remains to be seen, but I know I’ll get something useful from it.  I know I’ll ultimately be very glad that I took the risk.

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