By Kanchan Gautam
On a cold February afternoon, I looked out the window of my airplane and a sort of nervous calm took over me. I was on a flight from North Carolina to California. It had been raining all day and my tan loafers were soaked from walking around in the rain all afternoon in Raleigh. I had spent the day with my sister exploring the city while we waited for our late afternoon flight. We would run inside stores seeking shelter from the winter rain. My toes were starting to wrinkle inside my cold wet shoes. I was excited but the kind that is filled with anxiousness and uncertainty. I kept thinking what’s my next step and planning, eventually, I decided to stop planning and enjoy that exact moment which I knew I would never be able to experience again.
Rain signifies change, new beginnings, a sort of genesis, cleansing of the old and the beginning of a new. I remembered this small tidbit from my art of cinema class from freshman year of college. In most movies and books we see or read about the juxtaposition of rain which is there to reflect a new beginning; a sort of house cleaning.
As we get older, taking risks become somewhat of a non-existent thing. We stop going for it or diving into the deep end of a pool for fear of the unknown dark waters. It also does not help that immigrant culture is very much focused on traditional ideas of stability and practicality, rather than going after one’s dream or choosing the path of happiness and exploration which tend to tread unfamiliar waters. Thus, for many immigrants, first, and second generation kids, this is a difficult concept to practice.
Recently my sister, after years at an unfulfilling job, decided to take a leave of absence to travel abroad solo. As any Nepali family would, ours was no different and she received a lot of push backs and hesitation from family members. Many were in disbelief and thought this was something very unlikely to happen. Many had a hard time understanding her reasoning behind her quest. It is uncommon for Nepali folks to travel or go on a sabbatical of sorts to find themselves and seek inner peace or happiness unless it pertains to a religious pilgrimage. She is taking a risk because over the course of her journey, she might find what she is looking for or she might find something unexpected or unpleasant. However, she will never know unless she takes the risk and does it.
What does taking a risk or going after the unknown look like you ask? Self-doubt and doubt from others will surface many times naturally. Just as our family had doubts, I could sense my sister also had small slivers of doubts, doubts that dissipated quickly I might add. Most of the doubts were pertaining to traveling alone as a woman and not finding the right companions to do some of the things she wanted to do during her travels. When we take risks it will always lead to “am I making the right decision/s?” or what if this fails spectacularly and I am left with nothing?”. All the hard questions and what-ifs. In the past 5-7 years of my life I have gone down the what if rapid hole many times and found it doesn’t provide much satisfaction or solace as far as decision making because regardless of how trivial or difficult a decision or risk is, many what – if scenarios are just that; a big what if, a figment of our own imagination. We are unlikely to know all the external factors that affect any decisions and outcomes in the real world and therefore never will truly know the exact outcome of out what-if scenarios.
Earlier this year I took a huge risk and decided to leave an eight-year relationship, I was nervous but mostly frightened. I kept playing the what-if scenarios in my mind, however, nothing gave me comfort or closure. I was able to finally be at peace once I accepted the unknown. Possibilities that this decision could lead me to a path of pain, sadness or the possibilities that this could lead me down to happiness, enlightenment, and fulfillment. Risks are meant to tap into our most visceral and primal human emotion; fear. But should we let that prevent us from taking them? In my opinion NO! Risk taking is just that-risky, everything in life is a risk. We risk disappointment, pain and discomfort the minute we leave our parent’s house at an early age. However, as we get older and experience more of the unpleasant emotions we are less and less likely to take them as opposed to when we were children but we shouldn’t because yes risks can lead to disappointment, loss of many different things but it can just as well lead to some unexpected joy, comfort, warmth, and new perspectives!
*What kind of risks have you taken? What risks do you hope to take in the future?