I can’t really relate to a lot of people anymore because I just don’t understand risk-aversion in 99% of situations. Most people have had somewhat similar versions of self-directed extreme change in their lives; they just don’t seem to interpret them in the same way.
I broke up with my first love, who was set to be devoted to me and keet me financially comfortable for the rest of my love, and left everything that I knew to go teach English in rural France for seven months, having only textbook knowledge of the language and never having been out of the country for more than 10 days. These are some pretty risky situations, granted, the risks were more of a social/emotional nature. Haven’t run into a burning building, gone to war, or climbed a mountain, but I think the risk/return calculus and “does it fit my values?” decision making process is similar.In both situations, I left something that wasn’t working- a relationship that no longer suited me and not having any great job options in the US. I did not leave at the peak of happiness, but it still took some cajones to end what I knew and start a completely new way of life.
After taking those two big risks, nothing seems like a big deal in comparison. They really paid off though- whatever is left after you leave everything (or what feels like it) is who you actually are and what’s truly important to you, like family, faith, and a certain life philosophy in my case. So I actually have declared my love (rejected womp womp), saddled myself with debt to go to grad school, and started a blog to share my real feelings with the world under my real name (oops, shouldn’t have told you that). I can honestly say I live with very few regrets, and the ones I do have tend to be minor (like not seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls before leaving Philly- waah!). I just don’t understand how other people hesitate and I HATE to have to wonder what other people actually want vs what they are doing. I understand curiosity killed the cat and some people have less appetite for change-but DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT STAYING THE SAME IS ALSO A RISK? The outcome is always unknown- you could die in a parking lot of the grocery store or riding a camel lost in the Saudi Arabian desert!
“The most dangerous risk of all– the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” — Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle (found this on http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/ – super inspiring blog )
I feel like this is especially applicable in the love department. For most people out there achieving their own goals, and especially for people who travel a lot, seriously caring for another person constitutes a major risk. You might actually have to compromise, at some point.
I think that taking a risk for another person, who you will never fully understand or be able to control, provides a pretty good illustration of what I’m talking about. When it comes down to it, worst case scenario, you move thousands of miles away from everything and take a shitty job to be with your beloved (extreme and unrealistic, I know). What happens if you break up? What happens if you don’t like it? Move back! Go teach English in China; they are always looking for people! Easier said than done, yes, and you will have given up sooo much to do it (reality check: if you were willing to change your circumstances, you probably weren’t all that fulfilled with them anyway, just saying), how can you just quit? Listen, as long as you gave it your all and have no expectation of things changing significantly, you aren’t quitting. You are jumping off the Titanic and spending your precious time doing useful things instead. Fittingly, economists use the maxim “ignore sunk costs” to say that you have to ignore what you have put into something and focus on what you are getting out of it. Whether you have spent 5 or 500 dollars on a stock, if the company is going into bankruptcy, SELL. Now, matters of the heart can be complicated, and I’m not advocating you take risks indiscriminately on any random schmuck and give up your life in a wink. What I am advocating is that when you find someone worth risking for aka love (*le sigh*), just DO it! Same goes for picking a new career path, becoming a mountain climber, learning guitar…you get the picture. Failure is only a big deal if you let it conquer you. Chances are, if you are strong enough to take a risk, you are strong enough to deal if something goes wrong.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” Janis Joplin
Having nothing left to lose though is freeing, and maybe losing that bit of so-called security was actually what you needed to go after what you really wanted all along. Okay, so things can go really bad. But that is the price of a lot of meaningful experiences in life. If you find something you really care about, you will do whatever it takes to make it work (see any romcom ever) and if it doesn’t work out, you will survive. So why try to excuse yourself from living the life you want? Focus your energy on solving your problems and not on trying to convince yourself to be a pansy and stay home like “they” way want you to. Who’s “they”? I don’t know- I think they are in your head, as much as you want to blame your family, friends, checkbook, skillset, etc,
The only failure is not to have tried.
The number one risk you can’t afford to take is letting people you care about drift away. The pyramids will be there; your ailing grandmother won’t. The number 2 risk is not doing what you were born to do- if this is the only time you’ll ever be able to go to the pyramids, your ailing grandmother might just want you to go, and probably all the people who really love and understand you won’t let you stay home.
The world only gets one YOU; live your own life as you are called to do it, because no one else ever can or will. Be your own legend, and the world will come a little closer to being saved. Don’t risk the only thing you can ever call your own- your self.
“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”
Joan of Arc