I Played With Fire And I Didn’t Get Burned (Or Why You Should Take Risks)

I’m always catching on fire—with a figurative or metaphorical ambiance.  I think fire has it out for me—and not the Captain Planet pseudo-superhero who fags it up with the rest of the lot, but legit, burning, flaming, blue and white and golden-hued fire. Aside from one minor misjudgment in my pre-teen years…

I remember being a dumb and bored middle-schooler and lighting a bunch of paper and dead leaves on fire in a bucket inside my best friend’s garage.  There was no sane reason for this; I really do wonder how I managed to survive adolescence without becoming a multiple amputee.  Needless to say, one should not light buckets on fire. Especially when those buckets are made of plastic.

I have a tendency to ‘play with fire’ when it comes to taking risks or chances or just leaping with no ground in sight. I’m not sure where it stems from given my classic-white-bread-suburb upbringing, but maybe we can pretend I am purposely trying to ‘rebel.’ When everyone around me had small scale plans of sticking close to home and following suit with the stale-can dreams of new urbanism, I was lighting my chances aflame and pissing in the wind.

To put it tangibly: I decided on a lazy Tuesday I was moving to New York from the grasslands of retirement (aka: Florida) and by Thursday had made my way into a job, an apartment and a faux stable situation that would get me as far as I needed to for the time being.  The upside being it somehow worked out, and I’m still in New York.  The downside: living in a virtually uninhabitable basement in New Jersey with an insane roommate with questionable hygiene habits.

So I made some sacrifices. Eh.

Then there was the time I decided I would sell my soul to the implanted palm tree world of California.  So I quit my job and sold all of my belongings except for what quantified to 3 large suitcases, mostly of clothes and shoes (why would I keep any necessary belongings in lieu of 30 pairs of virtually the same heels?). That risk didn’t quite go as planned, when two days before leaving circumstances arose to keep me in NYC. Besides, my tits are real, I’m as pale as a unicorn, and haven’t a clue how one keeps up with the Kardashians– there was no way I’d fit in there anyway.

I found myself jobless, broke and with a lease that ran out fast enough to be legitimately homeless. Oh fuck.

I applied for unemployment and was denied (or there was so much damned paperwork I never got around to finishing, oops) and then spent the next month sleeping on my friends half couch.  That’s right, no luxury of a legit couch, but something the length of a love seat and shaped like a jelly bean.  After weeks of more than 300 phone calls harassing anywhere hiring, I decided there was nothing left for me to do but call my brother and cry on the floor of my friends bathroom in my underwear (because I was so ashamed of myself I couldn’t be bothered to wear pants). Mid self-loathing, my former boss who had recently switched companies called, and hired me on the spot. A leprechaun must have told him I stuck around.

Then I had about 5 days to find an apartment, sign a lease, and trek my 3 suitcases from dirty Jersey to BK. Somehow, this happened. Pretty sure there were wizards and wand waving and magical superheroes involved, but I don’t want to sound too prim.

There I was being all brave (truly a euphemism for crazy), playing with fire and everything worked out. Whoa now, how did I get this lucky? (Oh right, I must have made that trade with the Gods to be incredibly unlucky in love in return. Fuckers). And I have been majestically enjoying the basic outline of my life since. I am still completely infatuated with New York, I love my job, and my shit-hole apartment (but its rent controlled) and I live with a wonderfully sane, intelligent gay man who cooks.

I’m watching the pieces of my adult life fall together, and even though you could say I’m finding a settling ground in where I am and where I’m going, there’s still plenty risk to be had. I tend to bear my heart on my sleeve and wear my emotions like a charm bracelet—tacked with the obvious scars of my life. I fall hard and solid and strong every day. I found the love of my life… and his psychopathic ex-girlfriend. You could say I’m still playing with fire a lot there.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that maybe we all need to light up a bit more with the pyrotechnics of life. This slightly eschewed rant on my bold (ok, insane) maneuvers was more a kick in the ass character building experience than anything else. But it got me here. Right where I should be. My best word of advice to anyone stuck on the see-saw of choice: do something new, try something different and take a risk going down a road that might just be a dead end. But find out. Because even if the worst happens, you’ll bounce back with the luggage of experience.

Besides, don’t we tend to regret more what we have not done—those missed opportunities and the question of the unknown—more than we do the mistakes we made from taking a risk? TC mark

image – Tom Edgington


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    “I found the love of my life… and his psychopathic ex-girlfriend.”

    setting fire on fire

    treat them to steak

    • Eli Ash

      Filet mignon. I'm classy like that.

    • Eli_Ash

      Filet Mignon. I'm classy like that.

    • shonuff

      everyones dated a crazy

  • Tim

    Um… you live in New Jersey. So, no, it didn't work out.

    • Eli Ash

      Temporary insanity. I live in Brooklyn now.

  • fjhg9
  • Adamckeller

    I like the description of me!  Very flattering.  Love how you just left my own “questionable hygiene habits” out of it.  Hee. (oops, did I just type that?)

    See? Things all worked out (mostly).  And you got a great story out of it all (several, really).

  • oh

    and this whole time i thought that burning sensation was just gonorrhea…

  • An old friend

    “an insane roommate with questionable hygiene habits…”

    Please think twice when you publish an article on the Internet with borderline libelous comments. This is a public forum (you never know who will stumble upon these) and if you have an issue with someone, the mature and adult thing to do is to take it up with that individual and never discuss it behind their back, because that would be mean, cowardly, and unfair.

    • Megan


    • peck

      “When everyone around me had small scale plans of sticking close to home…”

      Sounds like the writer is critical of everyone who doesn't live up to her standards.

      • Eli_Ash

        Not intentionally. Most people around me were more practical, nothing wrong with that, it just wasn't the road I was traveling down.  Hence “pissing in the wind” –I'm not claiming I was better, in fact I'm admitting it was rather reckless. But as Virgil wrote: “fortune favors the bold.”

    • Pfft

      but possibly hilarious

    • Mistaaaaahhhhhh

      so you must be the insane roommate, huh?

      • Jinglebelles

        …and apparently they ARE a bit insane

    • Nester

      way to validate the half of a sentence that mentions you. are you for real? grow the fuck up and get over yourself.

      • Disheartened

        First of all how dare you judge someone you don't know. Pathetic.

        Honestly, I wish some people would grow the fuck up, that's my point. But I'm not going to say anything slanderous. I'm just going to continue crying myself to sleep after over a year of not knowing what the hell I did to deserve any of this (funny how simple words can effectvely destroy a person's life and reputation in a small town). Especially after supporting the person who turned around and destroyed me with no warning. But at least I can live with my actions and I doubt the author can do that and that makes me feel so much better.

    • old friend etc etc etc

      Also!  At least two of those suitcases were mine (along with lots of other things)!!!  Theft!  Police!!!

      (ohmygod the insane roommate has a sense of humor)

  • fjhg9
  • Joey M.

    I liked this but I'm really not that willing to throw my life on the line. Its a good attitude but in reality not many people can be this “risk takers”

    • http://profiles.google.com/mopeyprincess mopey P

      Well. It helps to be young, without kids, without serious (like we're talking mortgage-level) debt, and possible parents—even if they live in the really uncool burbs—to fall back on, right?

      • Eli_Ash

        Not in my case– growing up with a single mother who was a school teacher I always had a job and had to be self sufficient at a young age. If this hadn't worked out, it's not likeI had some pampered upbringing that would cushion the fall.

      • scottybepimpin

        it also helps to have leprechauns, wizards and magical superheros. because damn it if the world isn't going to conform to what i want it to be after i didn't make realistic plans

  • whydoIhavetomakeascreenname

    Best advice I've heard all year. Just try.

  • Irishmenace

    Its the tough parts of life that really define who we are. If it was all butter cups and sugar all the time, it would be boring; and I'd be diabetic :)

  • jessi jae


  • J-wizard

    “A leprechaun must have told him I stuck around.”
    I'm picturing a little green man like in the Flinstones whispering in this dude's ear!

  • Greg

    http://hypem.com/#!/item/18vvp I was listening to this while reading and it seemed strangely appropriate..great post, I personally believe that the farthest strides I've made in life have come from taking inappropriate risks, but then again I'm only 23 so, many more risks to take

  • Duke Holland of Gishmale

    I'll never understand why anyone would move from Florida to NYC.

    • Pfft


      • Pfft

        yeah, please don't.

  • Pfft

    isn't it cute being 22?

  • CathyK ate my shoe

    really enjoyed this. sounds like a movie.

  • Samuel-Sonorous

    A schizophrenic genius once wrote: “because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'”

    I want to burn like that.

    • GUEST

      ugh, GAG

  • mca

    Non-stop nuttiness!
    This was funny, nice job Eli Ash.

  • an ho

    hilarious.  and true.  you have the excuse that you're young in your 20s if you try and fail.  so why not try?  i like this article!

    • Eli_Ash

      exactly :) 

      thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1712117106 Jocelyn 'Cherry Bomb' Duncan

    This was just the little kick I needed to validate my dream of telling Ohio to kiss my ass and move to someplace fabulous for the sake of excitement.

  • luke borlase

    so in the last six-to-ten months, thoughtcatalog has devolved into a slop of badly-written self-aggrandising indulgent 'pieces' offering bland and condescending advice from people who don't interest me in the slightest and are incapable of any creativity that strays even momentarily from navel-gazing. at least, though, most of the new TC 'authors' can use words of more than two syllables correctly, unlike eli fucking ash. i'm sick of this shit.

  • Jaaaaaaaaymes

    this inspired me to welcome more change into my life. what a great piece.

  • Michael S.

    “maybe we all need to light up a bit more with the pyrotechnics of life.”

  • Ry

    Yay! Good job Eli :D

  • Ry

    Yay! Good job Eli :D

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