When I was younger, I remember one of my mum’s favourite sayings was “take a risk”. I never really knew what she meant or what exactly she wanted me to take a risk doing. I was always a good girl and always erred on the side of caution. Even into my 20s, I wasn’t what you’d call a risk taker. I liked being in control and having everything organised. I stayed safe in my job as a nurse for many years and never considered doing anything differently. It wasn’t until I was 28 that I was diagnosed with anxiety that I realised that I was an overly cautious person for a reason. I was worried that something could hurt me and was paranoid that something would go disastrously wrong if I even so much as reversed my car out of my driveway without a seatbelt on or if I went to the letterbox without my shoes. The world was a dangerous place designed to kill me!
I would wake up and carefully turn the shower on so I couldn’t burn myself. I’d make myself a tea and hold the kettle at arms length while I poured it. I’d put too much cold milk in so I’d never be able to burn myself. I’d drive under the speed limit on the way to work and I’d check in on time every day. I didn’t want to get in trouble…God forbid I made a mistake.
But one day all of that changed. I spoke to a friend who had a life changing experience in Bali. She had travelled throughout the world but it was on this island that she found enlightenment and peace. She went into the little villages and spoke to the people and she told me point blank that she knew I had nothing to fear, nothing at all. She had a bad back, was missing 3 toes on one foot and was in her 70s, but she didn’t let that stop her. She looked at me enviously and said, “You’ve got two arms and two legs and a functioning brain. You have all the opportunities in the world and you don’t even realise it”.
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She then asked me, “Really, what is it that you’re most worried about?” “Death”, I answered. The word just fell out of my mouth and I’d never been able to admit it before. I was scared of dying. But why was I scared of something so inevitable? I was so scared of death that I forgot to live. It was an eye-opener and I just cried and cried thinking of how I’d been living and that my friend was right. She reassured me that there was still time to turn my life around. I was 52, single (never married) and childless. I had been in my cocoon for so long …it was time to spread my wings. Step by step I gained confidence to take risks. I got a new haircut (I had waist-length hair), I went over the speed limit (only by a little bit!) and I booked my first plane flight. Yes, I was 52 and had never flown anywhere before.
After my first trip with my friend to Bali for an emotional cleanse, I came home and started to see the changes in my life. I started to excel more at work and actually got a promotion to head nurse in the emergency department. But by the time I was 55, I felt ready to do something I could never have imagined I’d do before: I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. With each risk I took, I felt the layers of anxiety fall off me, instead of pile on like I thought they would. Yes, some things went wrong but no where near as badly as I thought they would. I didn’t fear death as I now knew that it was no way to live. I packed my bags and embarked on a journey that was a risk and a leap of faith. I got back to Australia a year later not only with a zest for life, but a new husband too. I had found a wonderful man who wanted me to be happy and allowed me that freedom to find myself after years in darkness.
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It takes time to take risks if you’re not used to it but fear exists only in your mind. I learnt that my comfort zone was stopping me from so much yet all I had do was leave it.
So take a risk…the odds are better than you think.
When was the last time you took a risk? What did you do and how did it change you? Tell us below.