I went to Hawaii with a group called Women’s Quest this spring. A friend of mine, Elizabeth, had been telling me about these retreats for years and was just sure I would love it. I wasn’t so sure. I had this vision of these hard core athlete types competitively swimming in the ocean and exercising all day. I’m active. I like to exercise, but I don’t like to do it all week in someplace like Hawaii. Besides, it cost several thousand dollars for the trip when you add in the flight over there. I finally decided to take the risk that it might be fun, and I did it. This has literally been the best year of my life, and it was kicked off by that trip. If I hadn’t taken that risk, I don’t know if I’d be in the same place right now. Maybe I would….maybe I wouldn’t.
I read Susan Jeffers’ book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway at the suggestion of my friend Bonnie. The main thing I got from that book was that anytime we make a decision between choices, there is no right or wrong answer. We are just choosing between two different experiences. That really freed me up to stop obsessing over decisions and just make the best possible decision with the information I have. I used to take risks with no thought at all to the outcome. I only knew my first husband about six weeks when I decided to marry him. That was a mistake of the young. But, we were married 11 years, and I loved him. Even though the marriage failed, there were some good times and great things about that marriage and that man. I don’t regret it. It was just a different experience.
Now, I give more thought to my decisions. When my former employer Medco Health Solutions was being bought by Express Scripts earlier this year, I had to decide if I wanted to assume the risk of being laid off during the acquisition. That is always a risk when there is an acquisition. In fact, that is always a risk in corporate America even if things are going well. I looked at our benefit package and determined how much I would get in severance pay if I got laid off. I paid off all my debt. I thought about my life and how long I could reasonably be without work and survive, emotionally and physically. I looked at whether or not I even wanted to work with the new company if they kept me. I decided I did not want to assume the risk, and I started looking for a new job.
I remember the first major risk I took where I realized it was a major risk. I had been divorced (and that was actually a huge risk, too) for about a year, and I got an opportunity to move to Seattle for work. I had a great set of friends in Knoxville, and I liked the people I worked with at Whirlpool in Knoxville. But, I wanted a change. I also thought I wanted to move up in the company and this was a great stepping stone. I was talking to my gal pals about it, and one of my friends who was always criticizing me said, “You won’t do it.” “Why do you say that?” I asked. “Because you are always talking about these jobs somewhere else, and you never take them.” Wow!! That was how I was showing up in the world? In that moment, I realized I had to take it because I wanted my life to be different than it was. This was a step I could take.
I remember flying into Seattle on my one way ticket to go live there. I had only seen Seattle when I went house-hunting, and I knew nobody there. This was more than a little scary. I was sleeping, and I woke up with my head leaning on the window of the plane. When I opened my eyes, I saw the city of Seattle glittering in the night. The Space Needle was right in front of me. We circled around for a few minutes before heading south to the Seattle airport. The darkness of Puget Sound surrounded this glittering oasis that would become my home for a short while. I thought, “Take a picture. This is the first day of your new life. You can be whoever you want to be.” I still see and feel that moment in my head as clear as day. It was the first time I realized that I could walk through fear and create something different for myself. The move actually didn’t turn out all that well, but it was the start of an adventure that has led me to where I am today. I wouldn’t give up the move and all of its heartache for that simple moment when I discovered that my life was mine. And, now, when I take a risk, I remember that I can be whoever I want to be. Feel the fear and do it anyway.