I Run With Scissors

When I was a young child, I got ahold of a pair of scissors and teased my mom by flashing them before her and promptly running away. I left her with a very dangerous conundrum: chase me and risk me falling on those scissors, or ignore me and risk exactly the same fate! Not a very pleasant decision to be left with. I can’t say that the rest of my childhood and teen years left my parents in a much easier position, because I had the dangerous combination of intellect, determination and a predilection to all things naughty. That’s not to say that my parents weren’t and aren’t proud of me, or that I wasn’t balanced by ethics and a conscience, but I have heard time and time again that I was not the easiest of children to rear. Now that I can look back with some perspective, I can see why they were right. However, I can also see that with maturity and life experience, that boldness is partly what makes me the resilient woman I am.

Now in my early thirties, my propensity for risk has been moderated by common sense and a measure of wisdom, discretion and patience. I now have a passionate and clever child of my own to care for, admire and contend with. I have a strong focus on setting and achieving important goals around career, education and other personal interests. Personal relationships are important to me so I try to be careful to preserve or enhance them. As an adult, I recognize how my choices colour my own life and its progression, and therefore my decisions have a more evident impact on me than they did when I was a 3-year old with a thirst for making my mother sweat.

Still, I sometimes run with scissors. After all these years, my motivation for doing so is not to make anyone fret, but rather to push the limits of life and see if somehow I have improved a circumstance or come away with a meaningful experience. I firmly believe that life is not really lived if there is no risk involved, and correspondingly we cannot grow if we don’t stretch ourselves sometimes. I don’t believe that people achieve great professional success without some risk; applying for a job we aren’t qualified for or confidently networking with an intimidating professional powerhouse. I think that, too often, we miss out on incredible encounters because we are fearful of outcomes we can’t possibly predict. Then, we spend a good portion of our lives wondering what might have been. And in the end, whether we take the risk or not, we still can’t predict the outcome of the status quo situation.

{Let me stop for a minute to make a clarification. I am in no way encouraging purposeful and premeditated risks directly involving someone else’s life. Though our personal choices inevitably affect others, I am merely deliberating the idea that often, with great risk comes great reward. And having been on the receiving end of pain as a result of others’ choices, I can furthermore conclude that I am a stronger person as a result of those situations. Moreover, I am not trying to indicate that I bear distaste for stability or consistency in life.}

I was reminded yet again this week that we never know when we may have lived our last day. People die in disastrous, unexpected circumstances every day, and scores of others die during their daily commute (excuse the melancholic moment, but it’s the truth). Living according to this philosophy may encourage us to take more risks, and also treat differently our relationships with others. I personally try to build straightforward, fruitful relationships in all facets of life, treating people well and striving to perhaps enhance their lives somehow. Ultimately, I really never know when they might move on. So, it is in the relational matters of life where I tend to take the greatest risks; putting my heart on the line, speaking my truth, going against the grain.

The principle of risk-taking can be applied to nearly everything in life, from career decisions to romantic forays, financial investments to extreme sports. We each have unique risk tolerances in each part of our lives. I would argue, nonetheless, that we don’t gain anything by sitting on our hands and thinking about what we could have done, accomplished or experienced. That’s not to say that decisions involving risk are easy to make, but I have begun to realize that my gut feelings are usually right and over-analysis only complicates matters. That same over-analysis which might strike fear into my heart would also inhibit me from having an amazing and life-altering experience or an opportunity to learn something profound and empowering. Sometimes we must seize an opportunity, however scary, in order to benefit from inexplicable growth or joy. And while our fears may become reality and we might get genuinely hurt, I would challenge that those occasions offer us invaluable life lessons and opportunities for self-reflection. The alternative to healthy risk-taking is that we in fact risk much more: the slipping of time like sand through our fingertips, without having experienced it fully.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” ~William Shakespeare – The Tragedy of Julius Caesar