I’ve been away. Last week, I was in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the week before, I was preparing for my week in Daytona Beach. I was a bit too tired to really write anything, and I feel a little guilty about that. Tonight, though, after work, I remembered “Oh, it’s Wednesday. That means ‘Writing Prompt Wednesday.'” Then I realized my life was just a little sadder than I thought.
I still have quite a few pictures to edit from that trip, and some left from a wedding I shot the weekend before. Helped shoot. As a favor to a friend. It was fun, and if I ever do it again and need a second, I’m inviting her. We seemed to see the same things, or the things we’d see if we were in the same position. Very important to have someone with the same vision. Now if I can just remember to set my camera to “auto” and leave it… Seriously, for an event like a wedding, it might be better to let the camera decide. For the portraits, I go back to manual, because I have control of that situation, whereas I don’t have any of the ceremony.
But I digress.
Prompt 69 – “It was Erica Jong who said ‘If you don’t risk anything, you risk more.’ Write about what this means to you.”
My thoughts on this have changed over the years, as I’m sure many others’ have. I’m not the same person I was five years ago, and not even close to the same person I was twenty years ago. My life was very different, then. I wasn’t really on my own; I was trying to break out and be my own person. It’s a very difficult thing to do, and some believe that’s also why as kids become teens, they have more and more fights with their parents, so it’s easier to let them go when it’s time. I don’t know, maybe that’s just some hypothesis. True, perhaps, but hypothesis. Besides, it doesn’t explain thirteen. Actually, that one has another reason, as well as two and twenty-one. Right about then, there’s some major self-awareness shift, and a desire to become more independent. At two, you want to walk by yourself, eat by yourself, answer questions yourself, get your own toys, own clothes, make up your own mind on what you want to do. At thirteen, you want to leave the house by yourself, allowed to be home by yourself (if you haven’t already), be responsible for your own decisions, have your own voice. And around twenty-one, or college age, you want to leave the house altogether, have bills in your own name, take care of yourself, be able to buy your own food, your own clothes, choose your friends without parents’ approvals. Generalizations, of course, everyone responds differently at different times. But those periods seem to be fairly similar in demeanor for human beings.
At this point in my life – in my journey if I feel like getting all crunchy and granola – I have a better idea of risk than I ever have. I don’t necessarily have more to risk; there aren’t people who will be horribly, traumatically, affected by my decisions for my own life, and after a number of years unemployed, I no longer own my own home. I understand a little better what is at risk. Twenty years ago, I might have disagreed with this statement altogether. I could risk losing my lease, my relationships, my job, my education, and all with a carelessly-handled decision. Not taking a risk was the smart thing to do if I wanted to get out from under the thumb of my family. S’funny, really, since I took a pretty big risk at that time – I got married. Nice guy, kind, thoughtful, smart, just wrong for me. Wrong at that time in my life – although anyone would have been at that time, to be fair – and probably wrong now, because I’m so much more familiar with myself. The risk I took didn’t seem to pay off; it seemed to cause more trouble than it resolved. It wasn’t worth the risk. Now, I see it a little differently. I think if I didn’t marry, it wouldn’t have been so bad. I wouldn’t have made his life miserable for our time together. But I also wouldn’t have been exposed to computers again after a long absence. That’s right, I’m old; I remember when disks were 5.25″ and truly floppy. Heck, I remember the punch-card computers, although I was very small. Practically embryonic. That’s my answer, and I’m sticking with it.
I won’t try to figure out exactly how I’d have answered this back then, or even five years ago. I’m not the same person I was then. The core, perhaps, but how many people are familiar with their cores at 15, 20, 30, even 40? There was some peeling happening, and it wasn’t always pretty. My marriage ended, and it ended without children. At that point, I was grateful, even though I’d actually tried while we were married, so I could “get it over-with before I change my mind.” I said the same thing about marrying him, too. At this end of it, this far removed, I see all sorts of signs that this wasn’t going to last, and that it might be best to quit while we were ahead.
What would have happened if I didn’t marry him, though? Would I have gotten involved with the early internet? Would I have learned basic html coding, and creating my own websites? Would I have discovered this world of people who speak different languages or dialects, who have different cultures – even between Ohio and Colorado, say – and different ideas, thoughts, experiences? Or would I have come to it late, once it was established, as so many of my generation did? We were right in the middle. Those who came after grew up with computers, and those before grew up without television, mostly. I like learning things. I like finding new things. I like seeing different things. If I hadn’t married, he wouldn’t have requested a computer – instead of the desperately-needed cash – from his parents. If I hadn’t married, I wouldn’t have discovered MUDs and challenging other people, I wouldn’t have had a form of escapism, I wouldn’t have discovered I have a weensy problem with that particular game format, and I should probably avoid the descendants of the MUD, with their shiny graphics and flashy quests.
Would I have become so comfortable with the word processor, database, slide show and spreadsheet programs that were becoming increasingly popular in the corporate world, to the point where I would actually create procedures and teach? Would I have become the go-to for tricky software questions? I’m no expert by any stretch; there’s plenty I don’t know. But I have built my own computer a time or two, and I have discovered all sorts of neat little tricks in those popular programs.
If I hadn’t taken that risk, my life would be very different. I could be one of those just barely understanding a computer, not particularly interested because I didn’t really know what it could do for me. I could be learning just now what I’d been missing out on for the last twenty-odd years. I could have missed out on reconnecting with friends from high school and college, and online support groups where I made other friends, some very close even though politically we’re on opposite sides. If I hadn’t taken that risk that didn’t work out, my life could be so much emptier, now.
Taking risks has given me a life in another state, a new hobby I rediscovered and love, a brief stint as a tutor and piano teacher, and random road trips to places within a day’s drive. So many things in my life have come about because of risks; some positive, some very negative. Without those risks, though, I’d have stagnated ages ago. I’d have stopped growing.
“If you don’t risk anything, you risk more.” True.