I am pretty good at taking risks, but not as good at dealing with the feelings of anxiety and vulnerability that often come with the risks.
For example, I love to travel and have traveled to other countries by myself, which can be risky. Planning the trip, checking out travel sites and looking at hotels online are all fun for me; but I am usually a bit anxious until I actually see the place in person.
A few years ago, I decided to go to Poland for two weeks of language school. I found a school online and they promised to arrange a host family. Although the school confirmed a host family had been arranged, I did not hear from them until the day before I was set to leave. Until that moment, I was feeling more than a little anxious.
Then there was the time I went to Buenos Aires and my luggage did not arrive. I had to rely on my limited Spanish to try to understand the process for recovering my suitcase. It was not a big deal, but I remember feeling so vulnerable. I stood at the counter and cried.
Now, I am taking a huge risk in moving to Michigan to be near my family. I have decided to leave behind what is familiar and secure for what is unknown and insecure. I have quit my job and am looking for a job in Michigan. I am getting my house ready for sale—purging, packing, and painting.
I am feeling very vulnerable because I have no idea how this will all work out. Will my house sell quickly? Will I find a job soon? I just don’t know.
What I do know is that the risks I have taken throughout my life have worked out—maybe not the way I hoped or planned, but they have worked out—and have usually been opportunities to learn something about myself and others. They have also added an incredible richness to my life.
For instance, it was only when I gave up the security of my full-time government job that I had the opportunity to go to Villanova and then to work in the nonprofit sector. And only by taking the risk of moving to l’Arche Winnipeg did I also have the chance to live in a small community with Mennonites.
Right now, though, I feel like the trapeze artist who has let go of one swing and is waiting to grab the next swing—suspended in midair. It is a bit uncomfortable. It is also the way change happens. I have to let go of what was in order to make room for what is to come.