The Art of Taking Risks

trail marker (1)Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Don’t refuse to go on an occasional wild goose chase; that’s what wild geese are for. –Henry S. Haskins

I became a risk taker in late in my late teens.  A depression had settled over me and thoughts of suicide sometimes crossed my mind.  Then it occurred to me that rather than do something so unimaginative like throwing myself off a bridge, I might as well live my life with abandon if I was that disposable.

My inner compass did not consider this as a license to make stupid choices like getting addicted to drugs or criminal behavior.  Rather I decided to take risks and see what life could offer me in the realm of adventure.  My first step was to extract myself from my miserable high school experience. I graduated from high school early and started attending my local community college- a total liberating experience.

After university, I traveled to Alaska alone for my first job. My stay there extended to 10 years. During that time I explored remote places on foot, skis, snowmobile, by boat, kayak, and raft. One winter I lived with my husband in a wall tent in the bush researching pine martin in subzero temperatures. I commercial fished for crab, worked in a sawmill (the only woman), and built a cabin in the woods. The list goes on. Those experiences were challenging but it was then I felt fully alive. They have become my stories.

Then there were the more common risks. Before I found happiness in a longterm relationship I went through two marriages, two divorces and single parented my son. I went back to school as an art major when I was 30 and then grad school in my late 40’s to teach middle school. There were travels to Mexico and Central America alone to learn Spanish. Some of these experiences were some of my hardest. Yet looking back I gained so much wisdom and perspective from these trying times.

My risks are more tempered as I’ve entered my 60s. The chances I take now involve creativity. I write and make art. I hang over cliffs of words and paddle through images I put on paper. Sometimes I execute the challenges beautifully and then sometimes I tip over. I risk the judgment of others and my own, which can be far more brutal. Journeys, no matter what kind are full of hazards and stumbles. Whatever the outcome, it’s still a journey of growth.

There is no such thing as failure- just opportunities to learn what not to do. We must crawl before we can walk, and walk before running. Success takes patience. If you ever watch a toddler, they fall repeatedly before they can master walking. Edison, who developed the electric lightbulb after a multitude of failed attempts was quoted “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Now in my mid-sixties rather than being filled with regrets, I am filled with many great memories. On the way I got my depression treated. If you are suffering from depression by all means get help! The best investment is in yourself. If you are not healthy mentally and physically nothing will work well. You’re worth it.

Take risks. Accept “failures” as inevitable. It’s a far more satisfying life than to be mired in fear. Just keep going and enjoy the ride!

6 thoughts on “The Art of Taking Risks

  1. This post is inspirational, Alanna. I love the line, “I hang over cliffs of words and paddle through images…” That brought a smile to my face.

    My big risk was to quit my job of 11 years, sell my house and move from TN to MI to see if the spark from a college connection could turn into the flame of love. It did! Thirty years later I’ll say that was a beneficial risk.

    Liked by 2 people

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