My oldest godchild is about to embark on a life-changing journey, moving away from the town he has known his whole life to a new place with none of the safety nets home often provides. I remember when I did the same almost 25 years ago, leaving my reporting job at Catholic New York to drive my Chevy Chevette to Austin, Texas. In August. Without air conditioning.
That last fact alone should have been reason enough to call my sanity into question, and yet that move, along with the many life events that came after—both good and not so good— helped shape me into who I am today. Without those Texas years, I’d be different. Maybe not better or worse, but definitely different, a little less whole, a little less who I was meant to be.
Despite my control-freak personality, I’ve always been a person willing to take “reasonable” risks, willing to follow my heart even when my heart was telling me I had to make some pretty difficult choices. Sometimes I wish I’d just be happy with the status quo, but where’s the joy in that?
When I finally got my first job in Texas—after two agonizing months of unemployment, lots of rejection and a dwindling savings account—I tacked a Helen Keller quote over my desk at the daily newspaper: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
I still remember how one of my Austin office mates scoffed at that quote, questioning how I could possibly consider this particular job a “daring adventure.” Although I was too surprised or hurt to say anything in response at the time, inside I knew that yes, leaving my home, driving across the country, landing a job and creating a totally new life for myself was, in fact, a daring adventure.
And so I recently counseled my godchild to go with his gut when he went out to Chicago for a visit, to go on job interviews and listen to his intuition, but most importantly not to let the fear keep him from going, because listening to the fear only leads to regrets.
I still have that Helen Keller quote about life’s daring adventure hanging next to my desk in my basement office, and on the homepage of my website. It remains my motto, even if I often have trouble letting go and savoring the adventure that is life. Right next to that quote, I have another, this one from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Have you ever looked back at a moment in your life and realized that if you knew then what you know now you might not have had the courage to go ahead and do that very same thing today? I can think of lots of moments like that, times when I had a choice: turn toward the fear and let my life close in a little, or turn away from the fear and open myself up to whatever God might have in store for me.
We can’t always be guaranteed that taking a chance will work out just the way we imagined or planned. There are certainly many decisions and events surrounding my Texas move that were less than stellar, but would I trade them, delete them, or wish them away if I could? Never, because a radically different life scenario would have set in motion a domino effect, leading to too many wonderful moments that never would have come to pass.
I hope my godchild Gregory finds everything he imagines and more in his new home, but, even if he doesn’t, the experience will add some new dimensions to his personality, some missing pieces to the life puzzle that confronts each one of us. Today he’s found the courage to do one thing that probably scares him, to open himself up to the daring adventure. And that is the epitome of faith.