Risk: Fortune Favors the Bold

Each year a dear friend pulls words for the new year for her family and friends. It is a generous, and often eerily accurate, annual tradition. More often than not, the word picked at random from hundreds resonates with its intended recipient.

My word for 2019 is RISK. 

Take a moment and think of the likelihood of her choosing RISK out of the hundred or so possibilities in that glass jar.

For any of you that know me, you know I’m naturally risk-averse. I hate roller-coasters, heights, fast driving…I weight almost every decision with a laundry list of pros and cons, terrified to make the wrong choice. (Hello, anxiety!)

While I step out of my comfort zone A LOT, it’s not hard to do because almost everything is out of my comfort zone–sometimes even leaving the house. 

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Back when I took Latin (a couple of lifetimes ago in undergrad) we had to translate the phrase audentis Fortuna iuvat from Virgil’s Aeneid

“Fortune favors the bold.”

I hated it. Not because it was hard (I love a challenge and Latin is a beautiful language) but because deep down I knew the proverb was right and I was the antithesis of bold. I blended in, I didn’t stand out–and I’ve knitted a life around that schema. 

But 2018 shook the very foundation of who I thought I was. While I was restless before, the latter half of the year was almost unbearable. A workaholic compounded by intense anxiety (I’m anxious unless I’m being “productive”), I found myself wanting to slow down without the ability to do so. 

Medical bills, living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to cover expenses in a household of six while also keep my creative outlet going…you get it. 

“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” — Geena Davis

And one day it finally hit me: if I really wanted a better life I had to take a leap. One where I wouldn’t really be able to calculate when the risk would pay off, or realistically even if it would. But if I didn’t do something–and soon–things would continue on this neverending cycle of not-enough-time and not-enough-money and I’d die and that would be it.

“Leap and the net will appear.” — Zen Saying

So after a few months of thinking, of working out details and taking classes and testing the ground, I jumped. I’m self-employed. My life–my schedule–is my own. I wake up early, or I stay up late. (I usually the stay up late, to be honest.) I decide what projects I’m working on, and what I don’t want to touch. 

I pick up my kids from the bus stop almost every day. We talk about their days, we do homework and chores together, and then we play board games or cards, or watch cooking or organizing shows. (My son is obsessed with Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and I love The Brittish Baking Show.) After they are in bed, I return to my office and work again. 

I have enough clients to keep me busy and I only take clients that fit in my new life–not the other way around. I set boundaries and I (generally) stick with them. When I have to do something new, I’m terrified. But I jump in anyway, reaching out to my resources, discussing options with my clients, connecting with experts so we can both learn. And it’s been insanely rewarding. 

“Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.” — Anonymous

I’m happy. I make mistakes, but I learn from them. I don’t have a predictable paycheck, but I have the ability to take on more clients if I find I need additional funds. My clients seem to like the work I do for them. They refer me to their friends–the ultimate compliment, in my opinion. 

I love helping people and supporting them with their projects, collaborating new ways to do things, learning new technology. Is this forever? Probably not. Is it the best idea to leave a stable job (although, what is stable in this economy?) while dealing with cancer maintenance and a million unknowns? Eh. 

But I’ve played life safe for 38 years. I’ve stayed at jobs I hated because it was the “right” thing to do. I’ve made decisions based on what was the least disruptive to those around me. 

But cancer was disruptive–to me, to those I care about, to what I thought my life would be like.

And suddenly I feel like making some waves. I feel like being bold and taking risks. Because the biggest risk in life is to play it safe. 

What I’m reading: 

*Feature photo credit to Laura Gilkey.

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