Last month, my husband and I enjoyed a vacation in Wisconsin and Michigan. Ken wanted to go biking in Peninsula State Park in Door County. I, however, have a fear of heights and was worried we’d be biking near the edge of cliffs. Also, I had only ridden my bike once all summer and didn’t know if I could keep up with him. So we didn’t bike.
We passed up the bike rental place and went inside the park, and I immediately felt like a stick-in-the-mud for saying no. Children and seniors biked past us on flat trails and appeared to be having a great time. We hiked a bit and eventually got to the Eagle Trail, which was marked “Difficult.” I could see that Ken wanted to hike it. So, to redeem myself for not biking, I agreed to try it. The path started out easy but soon was quite difficult. We climbed on sharp rocks, walked through mud, and slid down steep sections. I said, “I can’t do this,” but we completed the hike.
When we got back to the car, Ken said, “I’m glad we didn’t go on that bike ride or we wouldn’t have been able to hike the Eagle Trail!” I was happy I had taken this little risk.
Please know this was not dangerous, like technical mountain climbing. Women Making Strides is about taking care of ourselves, and I don’t advocate taking life-threatening risks.
A few weeks later, I took another little risk. I would either have to do without a car or I’d have to take our hybrid. We’ve had the car for over a year, and I had never driven it without Ken. The hybrid drives differently than our other cars, and I had convinced myself it was difficult to drive. However, after some thought, I realized I could drive that car. I just was fearful because it was different.
Driving the car turned out to be both easy and fun.
This success made me feel like taking other risks that day. I went into the nonprofit where I’d worked previously. This might not sound like much of a risk, but I’d been resisting going in. I still had bad feelings about being terminated shortly before my mother passed away three years ago. See Eyes of Faith.
I enjoyed seeing friends there who I hadn’t seen for a long time. One volunteer asked me what I knew many of them wondered about: “So Sue, why did you leave? Why didn’t you visit us?” I told her my side of the story with a previous director at the nonprofit, and she completely understood. Our conversation was healing for both of us.
That evening, I networked on behalf of my church at a chamber of commerce event. I would not have enjoyed such an event when I first started networking a few years ago. Also, I felt I didn’t belong there. The event was for chamber members, who typically own small businesses, and for church staff. I am fortunate to be treated like staff, but I am an unpaid volunteer.
However, it turns out I enjoyed good food, wine, and mingling with nice people. When talking with chamber members, we discussed their work first. Then I said “I’m the church librarian, but I’m really a volunteer.” They all responded kindly with statements like, “Don’t belittle yourself. What you’re doing is important,” “I really value libraries and books,” and “I like the displays you put in the window—they’re always pertinent.”
My overall feeling on that day was empowered. Maybe taking these little risks could help me write a book, which I feel is a bigger risk. Some people won’t like my book no matter what I write—and I don’t like being criticized. Also I have written very little fiction, and the book I want to write is a mystery related to the Women Making Strides theme.
Despite my fears, I plan to try NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. In order to succeed, I must write 50,000 words during November. Announcing this to you is a risk in itself because I’ve tried NaNoWriMo twice already—and failed. However, I am giving it another try. If I can establish a daily writing habit and make progress on my book, I will feel like a success.
Have you ever felt empowered by taking a risk? What risks have you been avoiding?