I am participating in BlogHer‘s NaBloPoMo this year and the task at hand is this: write a blog post every weekday in March that deals with this month’s theme: Risk. BlogHer provides daily prompts to help keep the creative writing juices flowing. To find more blogs that are participating, please click here.
Picture this: A 33-year old woman who has never broken a bone, never had a stay in the hospital beyond her own birth, never had need for stitches. She has had a fear of heights for most of her life, feeling lightheaded and dizzy when in glass elevators, let alone at the top of a skyscraper or in a plane. She developed a fear of swimming (and thus drowning) over time, so she hasn’t owned a swimsuit in years. She carefully considers most things, whether it’s what cereal she will eat in the morning or what job to apply to.
Now picture this: A 33-year old woman who has always felt pulled into one step out of the ordinary. She dresses how she likes, she dyes her hair at 15, she plays with temporary tattoos until getting her own beginning at the age of 21. She moves where she wants, as if on a whim, she leaves jobs that are not satisfying and/or healthy for her, and she marries a musician who travels the world. She has a pet tortoise instead of a child and stands up for herself, even when it means losing a job.
I have spent my life simultaneously playing it safe and taking what risks I felt safe taking. I’m such a rebel.
I understand the allure of graduating from high school or college and returning to your hometown to live out the rest of your life…it’s comfortable, it’s familiar, and it’s safe. At least those were the reasons running through my head during the worst of my college days: I can always go home. Home is where it’s safe, home is where I know what is expected of me. I know all of the streets, I know most of the people (I grew up in a farm town of about 8000 people), and I could probably afford to buy a house if I wanted.
But there was also this nagging thought in my brain that wouldn’t go away: THERE’S A LOT OF WORLD OUT THERE. And that thought kept growing until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It told me that my hometown was always there if I needed it, but now, NOW was the time to explore and see what it was like living elsewhere. Now was the time to broaden my horizons and see what kind of a person I could be in a different environment.
I was scared shitless.
After I moved to the “big city” of Cleveland, Ohio to marry my love at the tender age of 21, I spent the next two years sifting through depression, anxiety, and questioning regretful feelings I was having about transferring schools my senior year to move and not being near anything geographically familiar. I was thrilled to finally be in the same state as my husband and knew that it was ultimately the right thing to have done for our relationship (and it was; we’re celebrating 12 years this coming August), but many other aspects of life just weren’t piecing together for me.
Do I regret it? Not for one second.
See, I had to go through the detachment period, which took way longer than anticipated, and once I grew to love my little niche in a Cleveland suburb and the people who came along with it, I made it my own. I claimed Lakewood, Ohio as my place, my identity as an adult, and I craved more.
So we went on roadtrips…most of the time it was with friends because my husband was touring with a band at the time. My girlfriends and I would travel to Cedar Point every week and then scrape together some money to buy plane tickets to fly out and surprise our guys on the road in California or Florida or Baltimore. We drove down to the South for music festivals and got lost in rural Illinois looking for one there.
And I had never felt more alive.
It was intoxicating to live on a whim; to have a crappy job that you didn’t really care about, so you didn’t feel too badly about taking a couple of days off to go on a last minute road trip (this was before the recession, mind you). I met and befriended people all over the country and kept wanting more. After my husband left the band he was in, we sold almost everything we owned and moved across the country to Oregon…because we could (again, before the recession). And because we wanted to experience a different way of living. We eventually moved back to Ohio, not being ready to plant ourselves so far away from family and long-time friends.
Then the recession happened. And fear swept the nation, temporarily taking away the thrill of risk/adventure of everyday life.
Suddenly the thought of selling everything and moving across the country without a job prospect seemed silly, maybe even immature, and not even a reasonable decision at that. Everyone hunkered down, held tight to their money (though we were being encouraged to spendspendSPEND on American-made products), and still lost their homes. Businesses shut their doors and everyone was cautious.
Since then, a healthy risk-taking attitude has grown, at least in my little corner of the world. The thought is this:
we have this one chance at our tiny, short little lives.
Things may go to shit around us, we may never own a home or amount to much in our careers, but we have ourselves and each other and the great big world out there. We can (re)learn how to grow our own food, make our own clothes, live in community and set aside luxury.
Because in my eyes, luxury living is the greatest risk of all; the more you have, the more you want and the more you’re willing to risk everything in order to have it.
And that is not a risk I’m willing to take.
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