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April 7, 2014

Lisa Madras: Playing it ‘safe’ may be the biggest risk of all

NEW CASTLE — When was the last time you took a risk?

I have never been a huge risk-taker. Sure, I love roller coasters and surfing and occasionally (although I'll deny it if you ever ask me) driving just a little bit too fast. But the difference between me and the real risk-takers of the world is that my so-called risks are carefully controlled and calculated.

The free-fall of skydiving or trying illegal drugs or walking out of my job are far beyond my scope of reality — mainly for the simple fact that there are just too many "what ifs" involved. If it doesn't have an escape plan, I'm not climbing in that box.

Until last week, that is.

Last week was when I walked into my boss's office and announced that I would be quitting my job at the end of July. I didn't find a better job. I didn't find a Prince Charming who will be whisking me away to live out my days in decadence and glass slippers. I didn't even win the lottery. I'm going back to school, and the last time I checked, being a student doesn't exactly bring in a paycheck.  

For the first time since my 16th birthday, I will be unemployed. And voluntarily so. Quite frankly, I'm so terrified I could literally have an anxiety attack that would send me into cardiac failure if I allowed myself to really think about it. I've saved some money, and I'm well aware that my kids and I will be living a much leaner lifestyle, but it will only take one minor emergency to derail my plans for a brighter future. It's pretty unsettling to know that one leaky hot water tank or a broken arm may mean that I won't have the money to feed my children.

If you'd suggested I take such a risk several years ago, I would have looked at you like you'd just sprouted a third eye in the middle of your forehead. But things change. Life continues to move forward, even through the times we feel it has completely stopped —  right through death and betrayal and broken hearts. Sometimes, even, because of these things. And I could never put it more eloquently than the iconic author Anais Nin.  

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

I honestly thought that taking the safe road in life would ensure me the things I had wanted: a loving husband, children, friends, financial security. I sacrificed risk, and with it, the possibility of growth, to keep these things safe. But life is nothing if not a cruel mistress, and as it turns out, sometimes even the safe path is full of pitfalls and ambushes. And sometimes, your dreams are ripped away and you're left standing, bloodied and shell-shocked. And lost.  

And sometimes, getting lost is the only thing that helps you find yourself.

I've spent a lifetime playing it safe, never realizing that the safe path doesn't actually exist. Security is an illusion because life itself is a risk. At least LIVING life is. Love might always leave you broken-hearted, a job might decide you're no longer necessary, a hurricane may wipe out everything and possibly everyone that you love. But living tightly bound up in the fear that you could lose these things is no way to live at all.

We, just like that metaphorical bud, were made to blossom ... even though there's no guarantee on how things will turn out. Our springtime, no matter how brief, is our only chance to be exactly what we were meant to be. Life rewards courage.  I have to believe that this is true.

Somewhere in my stumblings, I figured out exactly who I am, and I refuse to believe that the journey is meant to end at this point. It's going to take a big risk — a bigger one than I've ever taken before — but I know now that what you get in life is what you settle for.

So is it risky business to jump and believe that a net will appear? Maybe, but hitting the ground can't possibly be more painful than never feeling the wind in my hair.

 

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