When’s the last time you took a risk? Why? Or should I say – why not?
Many of us associate risk taking with youth – that sparkling time which we think will never end, when excitement is easily found, and lack of experience makes everything new – and mistakes, plentiful.
Then again, with youth, we are resilient.
But over time, we make choices. We ease into a routine. We settle down. Often, we do so because we want to. Sometimes, because we think we must.
And along come the conventional families and house payments and job worries, and we love our families, we love our lives, yet we begin to look back, wistfully, with the passage of the years.
And we wonder, as we run out of steam – if there is still energy enough or time enough for adventure. For taking risk.
Age and risk taking
Does age begin to narrow options? Do you take fewer risks – because you must, or because you feel you should or shouldn’t act a certain way, pursue a new goal, or live a life chasing a dream?
I don’t believe that age limits our desire to explore or try new things, though I recognize that some would make us feel foolish for acting on those desires, or admitting to the sensation of being 30 in a 50-year old body, or for that matter, 18 in a 65-year old body.
I am grateful that with maturity I’ve learned to discern the calculated risks from the dangerous ones, but not to toss aside every dream, every vision, every legitimate aspect of self that is as vital as ever. To look in the mirror and accept changes. To look in the mirror and still see the future.
Life gets complicated
With relationships, there must be compromise. With marriage, there will always be adjustments. With children in the mix, life gets even trickier. Beyond anything we’ve imagined, thinking we can have it all and do it all, and realizing it isn’t so simple.
If divorce comes knocking on that door – especially if not by mutual consent – we grieve, we rage, and we ultimately adapt. More or less.
Sometimes, to a life with even more complications.
But change equates to opportunity. Not easy opportunity, but new options nonetheless. Unexpected and even unwanted change may force us into a new kind of risk taking. We can curl up and fade away, or we can fight to survive – and even dare to thrive – kicked out of our comfort zone whether we like it or not.
Friendship and romance
When life changes dramatically, some of those in our lives depart. Changing circumstances make them uncomfortable – or us, with them. A medical condition may slow you down. Divorce may leave you in financial disarray. It is especially sad – to me – when women walk away from each other.
But it’s never too late to make friends, and don’t think otherwise.
No longer a spring chicken? No matter – there are great women out there.
Looking for a hot man the second time around? An age-appropriate guy may be tougher to find as the years go on, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
Emotional risk taking
Putting our emotions on the line may become more difficult as we mature.
The understanding that life is shorter and more fragile than we once thought assumes the role of constant companion. We count our birthdays (and our blessings), and tell ourselves it’s enough.
Put our hearts on the line? Take that chance?
We may not dare.
The emotional investment in a new relationship is frightening, time-consuming, possibly draining. And when I find myself falling into the habit of accepting that I am beyond emotional risk-taking, I gently chide myself:
No risk, no chance of success.
For some of us, we consider it a positive trait to accept what life has dealt. We deem this a sign of our maturity, we choose not to rock the boat, and as part of this approach we put the happiness of others before our own. We look at the big picture. We rationalize. We sum up our inertia with a sigh, and surrender to “Youth is wasted on the young.”
There’s nothing wrong with any of this, if in so doing we aren’t actually making others more unhappy and ourselves miserable, with the underlying reason being fear of change.
So we stay in jobs that are stable, and in marriages that are quiet – trading off excitement (and the unknown) for security (and the known).
But what if we changed the conversation?
What if we consider that youth isn’t wasted on the young? What if it is lived as it should be – naively, spontaneously, and occasionally chaotically? What if maturity is to be lived with a fullness of heart and spirit and compassion that the “young” have yet to attain?
Then, might we cease to waste our maturity?
Get up, get going
Maybe it’s Spring Fever. Maybe it’s the plenitude of my years. Maybe it’s an appreciation for what I’ve learned. Maybe it is knowing that my nest will soon empty, and I can no longer make excuses.
Sure, some elements of life are always out of our control, but much is not; my life will be what I can create of it.
I’m gearing up, reshaping my self-image, and hoping to stare down the unknown. I will argue myself out of the fear, and commit to getting back up when I’m knocked down.
Life is about taking chances. It’s what we do. It’s what some of us must.
What about you?
© D A Wolf