For literally decades, wherever I've worked, be it at home, a cube farm or a classroom; I've had a quote from some unknown wise person posted where I could see it frequently. "Those who risk nothing, risk much more." It has always had the feeling of a bone-deep truth to me and thus, it is surprising for me to realize how reluctant I have been to follow through on this perceived truth.
Until the last few years, throughout my adult life, I have, in fact, done the exact opposite and avoided every sort of risk. I chose the security of a lifeless marriage over the risk of financial instability and emotional solitude. I never dared to risk social censure by saying no to requests that I did not want to agree to. I never had the audacity to ask for what I truly wanted, needed. My hopes and dreams were locked tightly in the cage of "Someday" from which they would never escape or be released to take flight.
Then came the much vaunted awakening of my fortieth year. And the first of the risks took form. I abandoned the lifeless marriage, accepting the financial instability that was sure to follow. And agreed to the emotional and physical solitude that I had so much dreaded. Still a fledgling at the art of risk, I thought I had risked enough. I thought wrong. More, much more, lay burbling beneath the surface, waiting for me to catch my breath.
I was still thinking in the old, acceptable patterns, not even imagining that I would bolt even further from the permissible norms. I settled into a nice respectable job because one must have a job with benefits and not entertain pipe dreams. Even if that nice respectable job eats you alive and makes you weary of life. One simply cannot do without health insurance and a 401K. So on I slogged.
Then, came the day when accepting the unacceptable became impossible. And I quit the job. Without a replacement in sight but knowing that I had to walk away. It took three long years for that awakening to occur. So I leaped without a net, thinking in vague terms that I would find "something" or do temp work. Anything but stay where I was.
I still hadn't quite got the risk thing. A partial risk is no risk at all. It's an all or nothing proposition. Fortunately, it only took about a week for me to figure out that I wasn't done leaping. Due to some residual income and a generous subsidy from my mother, I am now taking the largest risk of my life so far. The risk of being a writer and, more importantly, the risk of being fully myself. Perhaps, I should be fearful. But the life I led for my first forty years has made me dread another forty years of the same respectable, "normal," unfulfilling existence. I don't want to be an old woman sitting in a rocker who could have, would have, should have dared to live her true life.
My great grandmother used to ask the question, "When you get to be old, do you want to regret what you did or what you did not do?" Clearly, I have finally, at long last, embraced the risk of failure and regret for the chance at being fully myself.
And, although I've only just now removed the training wheels of risk taking, I am curious about what I will risk next.
Teacher Voices: Stewart Matthews - Here's another post in my continuing series on teacher voices. I'm interviewing some of my former students who have gone on to become teachers. In this po...
5 days ago