The things we say we’re always going to do, the things we say we’ll leave until tomorrow are just as much a part of us as the things we actually do. After all, they’re still ideas that have planted themselves into our heads, no matter how far away we try to distance ourselves from them. These are the dreams that we’re a little unsure about, a little worried about, the goals that sit in the back of our minds, a nagging reminder of everything that possibly could be — but also, maybe everything that could fall through. A chance, a possibility, a maybe, a hope. Hedging everything we have on something that’s not on steady ground. And in that steadiness often lies the rush, the reason why. When you risk, you feel like maybe that’s what this living thing is all about.
There will always be the people who always take risks above safe bets. It’s admirable and brave, to be sure, and there’s a certain amount of knowledge you acquire when you do that. It’s one of the fastest ways to learn. Because you at least tried, and you now know, at least, what’s on the other side. And to some people, that trumps the safe advice. To some people, risking bigger is what it’s all about.
A risk can also be a luxury sometimes, and if you don’t have the funds or ability or wherewithal to scramble back up to standing if you fall, sometimes you do have to pass. It’s the advice nobody wants to hear, the caveat that gets lost in the thrill and danger of leaping before you look. But not everyone can afford to have the attitude of someone who really just doesn’t care what happens. Some people have to care, some more than others, and sometimes, doing everything only because you want to be able to say you tried isn’t enough. There are obligations out there. There’s bills and rent and family and debt and promises we made already to other people. There are responsibilities that make risking irresponsible sometimes.
And so sometimes, you have to pass on a chance, and say no to a risk, and take the safe bet. I did it once. In high school, my only dream was to go to a conservatory, to get an MFA, to be an actor. I practiced and I auditioned for all the schools, and I got into a fair few. But my safety school, the one I’d applied to for a standard degree, offered me a scholarship larger than any other offers I’d gotten combined. It would have been a risk to choose a $200,000 education, to pay that off waiting tables, and hope one day I’d have my big break. And so I chose the safe option, and it turns out the world kept on spinning, and I found a new path, though I had no idea what that would be all the way back in high school.
Who’s to say what would have happened if I’d taken that first risk? Who’s to say what wouldn’t have happened? All I know is I might not be as happy as I am now.
It might not feel like it now, but there will always be another crush’s eyes to meet across the bar, another job to apply for when the one you’re offered isn’t the right fit, another dream to chase when you wake up. That’s how the world works. You let go of one thing to make room for another. And eventually, if you want anything good and true and worthwhile, you’re going to have to throw caution to the goddamn wind and go forth.
Because everything in life is a risk. That’s the trick to it. Sometimes we just pass up on some risks so that we can wait for the even better risk, the one that’s going to be that much more worth it.
All too often, we let fear and comfort decide our fate. Because saying no to one risk leads to saying no to another, no matter how much we wanted either. And there needs to be a certain amount of stability in life, to be sure. But getting too stable, too comfortable, too complacent is a surefire sign that you’re not growing anymore. You can be sensible about chasing your dreams. Really. It’s that space in the in between, when you allow yourself to sink into the knowingness of stability while simultaneously reaching for something more — even just in little inklings that crop up in the back of your head, saying wouldn’t it be incredible if…
And these are the risks we don’t usually take. These are the things we only stumble upon once in a while. These are the things that are amazing and worthwhile because they required the possibility of losing something else, something less great, less risky, something that presented itself first and we leapt before we knew what we were doing. But these real things, these special, incredible what ifs are important enough to risk losing everything. They are why you have to hold out for the kind of risk — and the kind of reward — your hard work and determination deserves.
Sooner or later, every last one of us has to stand or keep sitting in the face of what we really want. The leap may risk falling, but the sitting ensures you’ll always be on the same, solid ground. The truth is that we’ll all risk eventually. But will you do it now, or will you do it later, or will you do it when you have no other choice?