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The Resilience We Find in Taking Risks

My mother was the queen of audacity.  A compulsive risk taker, she was often in trouble—with her family, with her friends, with her finances, with the law.  She also danced until her feet nearly fell off, journeyed through Europe alone in her own car when women infrequently left the house and rarely without a man, made a name for herself in the world of professional poker, and adhered to an existence that was defined by excitement and adventure.  Declaring that a day lived like a lion was more important than a year lived like a sheep, her desire and zest outweighed her doubt and regret.

I take after her a great deal.  I’ve spent a large part of my life making radical decisions, many of which have been made out of a sheer need to survive.  I moved to different cities with very little warning.  I moved to the United States to escape an existence that very well might have killed me.  I changed schools, jobs, and the entire trajectory of my career.  I changed friends, partners, homes.  Sometimes these changes felt awful.  Sometimes they were absolutely exhilarating, while at other times they were downright traumatic.  And yet, every risk I’ve taken has proven to be an essential part of my growth.

It goes without saying that those of us with impulsive natures tend to take action before thinking.  It’s a curse, in that we’re prone towards whimsy and impatience, often thinking about our decisions only after we’re knee deep in the consequences that follow, and yet it’s a blessing, because it calls forth our resilience. Risks ask us to be able to reinvent ourselves.  Risks ensure that we remain strong.

If you’re at a critical juncture in your life and must make a daring decision that has uncertain results—whether that decision needs to be made immediately or can be arrived at gradually—it’s vital to keep the following in mind:

—Have faith that everything will turn out as it should.  Whatever happens is often meant to happen, and it’s important to be willing to accept and embrace change.

—We possess unlimited resources.  Like faith, this is a challenging concept to digest, in that risks that ultimately lead to heartbreak can leave one feeling hopeless, if not overwhelmed with desperation.  However, if you access these resources—which often remain unknown until they’re absolutely needed—you’ll realize the depth of your courage and the buoyancy of your spirit, which will only deepen your ability to face life’s ceaseless fluctuations as time marches forward.  In one of my first jobs, which I accepted without knowing what it might entail, I had to prove myself daily to a difficult boss who had a habit of making me feel like a fraud.  I was terrified of him but I was also petrified by the thought of unemployment, destitution, and eventually ending up homeless.  This provoked in me an energetic if not rabid need to demonstrate that I could get the job done—and done well.  My nights were sleepless, my days were demanding, and yet I ended up thriving in this position, and in doing so learned that I had the perseverance I needed to succeed, no matter the circumstances.

—In taking risks, we must be willing to lose.  Significant life decisions—from marriage and parenthood to changing homes—are daring endeavors that can immobilize us with fear, because we realize what’s at stake for us.  And yet we must be open to the idea of loss, whether it’s our freedom and independence or the comfort we’ve long known, in order to gain and progress.  With every risk I’ve taken, drastic or otherwise, I’ve lost a part of my identity only to find a new dimension to myself.

—Be aware that our minds work against our deepest desires, and that we should always listen to our intuition.  Concerns for safety and long-term security are entirely natural; they’re also essential, and it’s wise to be mindful of these issues before making any decision.  That said, the effort that’s required in taking a risk should not hinder us from following the course of action that’s right for us.  It’s much easier to stay on the couch than it is to run a marathon, but the satisfaction derived from accomplishment is undeniable while the comfort found in remaining in one place can often lead to misery.  If we always and without question listen to our reasoning—a marathon will be exhausting, the training time-consuming and almost unbearable, the possibility of injury high—rather than our hearts, then we rob ourselves of discovering pride and happiness and cheat ourselves from reaching our full potential.  To lace up and take that first step is excruciating, but to dive through the finish-line?  That’s living.

From my mother, I’ve gleaned the importance of using the heart first—as a companion, a muse, my one true guide—in the pursuits of love, pleasure, and passion, while my chameleon-like experiences have taught me to take risks within reason.  And when I don’t and fall while running?  I get up.  I brush off my knees.  I might scar later but, boy, will I be ready for the next race.

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