Considering that there are no guarantees in life, we live in constant states of risk. Different levels of risk, to be sure, and different stakes, but risk nonetheless.
It can be paralyzing trying to navigate these outcomes, but perhaps navigation isn’t what we should be aiming for.
Maybe we simply need to acknowledge a risk, do it anyway, then keep doing that: keep doing “us" anyway, as in “do you."
So jump in. Make sharks in the water afraid of you. Step across the line. Create your own borders. “Boldly go," as the famous intro line from Star Trek instructs, because the alternative of remaining where you are does not carry a guarantee of safety either.
Here are 4 risk that are worth taking…
Is there a bigger, more daunting, more utterly pervasive risk than seeking love?
For all its strength, the heart is a fragile thing, beautifully crystalline yet breakable no matter how hard we think it is.
Reams upon reams of poetry are devoted to our need to reach out to others. Movies, music, books – all serve as reminders that, risk or no, love is worthwhile.
Taking that first risk, just saying hi, might open paths of wonder you could never have imagined possible.
The risk of rejection is strong, but it can also be called the risk of negation, as in deeming a flower a weed before it ever buds.
Yet the rewards in risking for love are magnitudes greater than any imagined failure: friendship, sexual chemistry, mental compatibility, spiritual peace.
Even the chance for one moment of perfect beauty with another bright soul is worth any risk of potential embarrassment.
They say when we’re old we’ll want someone to sit beside us, even if only in memory, so say hi to people now.
Smile. Reveal your fragile heart. Create the memories and connections needed to place a twinkle in your eye as you dote in a rocker watching the sun’s light fade.
2. The Pursuit Of Happiness
Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.
That comes to us from Thomas Carlyle, 18th century Scottish philosopher, satirist, essayist, translator, mathematician, and teacher. It’s safe to say he found enough life’s work to cover several people.
Even in the 18th century, people hungered for purpose in their lives. Throughout human existence, really. Has life’s work merely been toil, or was there something inherent in each of us waiting for its moment of expression?
Many of us are afraid to take the risks needed to answer that question.
Granted, there are many perfectly legitimate reasons for not doing so: financial situations, families, job security, even time.
But there are no time constrictions on learning, and that’s all a new career path is: learning something different. There are people who’ve successfully changed careers in their fifties and sixties; there’s never a reason to let time waylay us.
As for the other negating factors, when there’s something we really want to do with all our hearts and souls, we find ways around them.
We take the risks needed to become painters, electricians, doctors, therapists, novelists, horticulturalists, or any of countless other bits of light that lodge in our imaginations.
Maybe it requires us to quit a job in order to devote time to our studies or our art; or switch jobs to free up precious mental and spiritual resources to allow for pursuits of a true calling.
Whatever it takes, finding a way to make the risk worth it is generally highly beneficial.
Unless you’re a one-percenter, everything we do is a financial risk. The family can, however – and, surprisingly, will – help with reaching your goal if given the chance, and job security is one of the biggest fallacies of our time.
There’s something in us that we’ve always wanted to do. Seize the day. Grab your Thomas Carlyle blessing and shine it around.
It’s a fair bet that there are lots of us who can say they spent their whole lives in one particular location and never once ventured outside its confines.
Mark Twain famously wrote:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all one’s lifetime.
Is there risk in uprooting, even for a week? Even for two days? Of course there is. What might happen back home while you’re gone? What might happen where you are while you’re there?
Will you enjoy the trip? Will it be a huge waste of money? Will it make you never want to return?
Or, possibly, just possibly, will it expand you so that you embody these words from Sir Terry Pratchett?
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
If you’ve never seen the pyramids of Egypt in person, you will certainly be glad to have done so.
No one who’s coral-dived in clear, life-filled waters has ever emerged disappointed they did so.
A trip to New York is worth it for stopping off at Big Gay Ice Cream for their mermaid sundae or Bea Arthur –inspired Dorothy cone if nothing else.
It’s too easy to go to work, come home, plant the butt on the sofa, turn on the TV, and repeat the process day after day after day.
Maybe the words of the ultimate traveler, Jack Kerouac, can ease the risk of travel worries:
What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies."
4. Family Matters
As with love, extending oneself to a tight-knit group is a daunting prospect, even as a biological family unit. Some would say especially as a family unit. Links of this nature are huge risks because they’re nearly unbreakable, for good or ill.
The good thing, though, is that the concept of family is not something dumped in our laps; we are able to create our own families. If we’re careful, honest, and adaptive, we get to do this with a fair measure of success.
This can be via deciding to have children, a huge risk.
Kids are the eighteen-year roll of the dice. But if you’re loving and you love them, they can be the most rewarding, uplifting, and giving aspect of your entire life.
They’re not your potential made anew, they’re entirely new universes created by you.
Another risky family venture is the Family of Choice: those friends who are closer to us than blood, dialed into our souls, and whom we’d rather not consider a life without.
When we open ourselves to people this deeply because we choose to, we automatically accept the unpleasant possibilities all loves are open to: betrayal, distancing, erosion.
Our friends occupy places in our lives no others can fill.
The risk of opening the soul to say, “you are my brother, you are my sister, you are part of me" is having that part break off.
Yet the greater reward is a band of people who will travel to the ends of the Earth and back with you.
The Biggest Risk
The biggest risk… is never taking a risk.
Living a life of regrets is not the movie we want to see as our final days wind down.
What would be left if we avoided every risk we knew some part of us wanted to take?
It would be a sad movie, one of tragic wastes and missed opportunities.
It’s loads better that, while we’re here, we give ourselves a little action, adventure, romance, and comedy.
There’s no guarantee the movie will be a blockbuster, but won’t it be cool seeing your name up there when the credits roll?
Risk nothing, gain nothing. Risk something, the world listens for suggestions.