The Reward of Risk in a Comfortable Life
I was recently asked in an interview how risk has played a role in either my personal or professional life. I almost laughed at the question, not because it was comical or humorous but because of my long-standing history with this particular word. Ironically, risk has been a common thread throughout both. I say ‘ironically’ because I am innately a very fearful, anxious person. My personality type tells me I like stability, consistency, and security. I like routines and well-formulated, logistical plans, to know exactly what’s on the horizon before I reach it. And yet, it seems I crave the thrill of a challenge.
According to Merriam-Webster, risk is both a noun and a verb, defined by words like loss, injury, hazard, danger — none of which evoke feelings of security. Ever since I was little, I’ve always looked at my glass as half empty. In fact, my dad used to call me Eeyore. Could I overcome this challenge? Could I embrace this hard season? Would I be equipped to handle all of life’s curveballs? Growing up, I’d probably never voice such questions but even at a young age, fear often riddled my confidence.
Was I strong enough, talented enough, capable enough?
I think it’s true for many of us that our own limiting beliefs often hold us back from pursuing the very things we know to be true about ourselves. Perhaps it’s the rejection. Or maybe it’s how others will perceive our failures. In a Western society that thrives on the American dream, our worth is often a reflection of our material successes, the value we add by the assets we accrue. But this lifestyle has really never resonated with me. I suppose that’s why I try to defy it. The conventional would encourage me to settle down into security, to build a stable life on a foundation of comfort. But the thought of settling has always scared me more than the risk itself.
I have spent nearly half of my life traveling to and from Haiti, and I spent four years there full-time. From transferring colleges after sophomore year to pursuing an online degree, from moving to a foreign country to quitting my corporate job for a freelance career, one risk has always led to the next. It’s been both utterly terrifying and beautifully rewarding simultaneously.
When I found myself back in the States at the beginning of 2018, working a 9-5, I felt suffocated by the stagnancy of an office job. My life in Haiti had been filled with so much purpose – so much risk – and suddenly I was drowning in the mundane. I had created for myself a routine, and a proper one at that, but the comfort of a conventional life became stuffy, exhausting, and I’ll admit, mildly depressing. Around that same time, I officially launched my photography business with a good ‘ole Facebook page, because that’s the definition of official, isn’t it? I remember feeling the weight of imposter syndrome as I called myself a photographer. Who was I to carry such a title? Was I skilled enough to do this? I knew nothing about running a business at that point. I just knew I loved to create.
Slowly but surely, that simple Facebook page evolved into something much greater, a career path that has taken me to the other side of the world, quite literally. Particularly in America, we are promised and persuaded into comfort and convenience. But there is nothing comfortable or convenient about risk. In fact, I once heard that we should do one thing every single day that scares us. I try to be intentional with that advice.
Am I the most talented, the most skilled, the best at what I do? Certainly not. And I never will be. But when we choose to step out of our comfort zones, when we say ‘yes’ to the hard things, and when we embrace a life of risk, we will always be better because of it.
Read the full interview on Shoutout Colorado here.
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