With the stop of his foot and shake of his head, the five-year old boy let it be known that under no circumstances would he climb up a flight of steps and plunge into the unknown. His sister was insane and his mom utterly misguided in her coos of “it will be fun. I promise.” How would she know? Her swimsuit wasn’t even wet. He narrowed his eyes but they persisted. There was only one way to stop the harassment. Grudgingly, he climbed the steps. The lifeguard instructed him how to sit, feet first, flowered swim trunks resting against the slide. His sister nudged his back, repeating his mother’s foolish words.
Then the world went crazy. At speeds previously unattainable on a slide he flew around the curve going down, down, down until a wall of water slowed his progress. Mommy stood at the bottom, camera almost blocking the huge smile on her face. He offered a quick glance. She wanted a high-five, but he had only one thing on his mind. Again.
A recent trip to the self-proclaimed “Water Park Capital of the U.S.” (in other words, Wisconsin Dells) got me thinking about risk. My children approach risk in different ways. My son sometimes needs encouragement to stretch beyond his comfort zone. Usually, he needs someone he trusts to go first, to prove to him it is safe. When possible, he wants to be with someone (usually me) when he encounters the unfamiliar.
My daughter, age 9, is bolder. Some of it may be age, but I suspect her temperament also plays a role. She likes encountering the new and unfamiliar, but rather than jumping in immediately, she assesses the risk first. Sometimes she talks me through her mental process, weighing the potential dangers against potential thrills. She decided the nearly vertical water slide was too “intense” for her at this age, but it looked fun for others. When I told her one water slide for two was entirely in the dark, she grabbed my hand, pulling me forward as she shouted “Let’s go.”
I’d been hesitant to go the two person tube slide. I’m not crazy about enclosed spaces, but for her, I took the risk. We gasped in surprise and laughed our way to the bottom where we spoke the same word. “Again?”
We may motivate ourselves in different ways, but ultimately, I’m glad we all took some risks. Many of my favorite memories and experience came only after stepping outside of my comfort zone.
Writing is a risky endeavor. I put my heart and mind into a story. I give myself a nudge at the top of the slide each and every time I hit send on a manuscript. It would be easy to become afraid, to consider each rejection a mouthful of water or painful chlorine eyes. Instead, I smile and say “Again.” Or better yet, I look around and plot my next adventure.
Do you consider yourself a risk taker? I’d love to know about a time a risk paid off for you.