Risk is a theme that seems to be coming up a lot for me as of late. It's the theme of the month over at APW, where recent posts have looked at it from a number of angles, one of which hit pretty close to home. Namely that for some of us, things like moving to a new place without much of a safety net or throwing ourselves into a new line of work (or out of a plane) don't seem terribly risky, just things we do sometimes. But settling down in one place? Putting down roots? A MORTGAGE? Terrifying. The thought of tying myself to a place has always given me a bad case of the shakes. As much as my frequent HGTV watching makes me feel like I'd really love to be able to make a house exactly what we want and then stay there for the long haul, my true self loves knowing each stop is only for so long and there's no telling where the next one might be. I'm guessing the Navy may cure me of this rapacious need for change at some point over the next ten or fifteen years.
Then I was talking with a friend last night about risk. It came up that my other primary risk aversion is specific to the risk of humiliating myself through an inability to successfully complete physical activities. Move to a new country with one month's notice? No problem. Hike across a stream where I might slip on the rocks and people could see and (however unlikely) point and laugh? PANIC.
But both the conversation and the posts on APW primarily concerned taking risks in context of relationships. Romantic relationships, mostly. How do you decide whether a relationship is worth the risk inherent in getting involved? If it doesn't work out, were you wrong to have taken that risk? This would assume that any relationship that didn't last until you were parted by death was a mistake and not worthwhile. Which I don't think is always true.
Things sort of came together for me last night when I was reading another post after this conversation. How did I decide it was worth the risk of getting my heart broken when I went all in on a relationship with Raj? Because given what I knew of him at the time, the risk of not acting, of having to always wonder what might have been, felt bigger than the risk of going for it.
I know it sounds like a cliché, but most of my biggest regrets are things I didn't do. (Though some of them are things I did say.) Which is of course not to say that there doesn't need to be a risk/benefit analysis of each thing. Some things are just not worth the risk to me. I don't worry that I'll look back in my old age and regret never having wrestled a crocodile, for instance. But there are times when the risk of What If? outweighs the risk of harm, whether that's physical, emotional, or just flat out failure. When what looks like the safe choice is really the riskier one.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. What feels risky to you and what motivates you to take those risks (or not)? Risks you're glad you took, wish you had taken? Times when the risk of inaction is greater than the risk of acting? Extent to which the word risk is no longer looking or sounding like a real word, given the number of times I've used it in this post? Whatever you've got.