The Biggest Risk of All

When is the last time you took a risk? I mean the kind of risk that has the potential to expand you in some important or beautiful way. For me, it was this morning.

I started my day with a long walk and a favorite podcast. When the episode ended, my thoughts were swirling and I realized I was 35 minutes from home. I paused on a bench and struggled to come up with my next listening choice, but I just couldn’t settle on anything. A thought crossed my mind: What if I just listened to the quiet morning air? I pushed it aside, more than once. The prospect made me jumpy; I didn’t really want to feel “alone” today. Finally though, feeling somehow expanded and emboldened by the crisp spring air, I decided to try it. I headed back sans soundtrack.

I know. As risks go, this barely moves the needle. Most people would call this peace and quiet instead. But honestly, sometimes half an hour alone with my own thoughts and feelings—with nothing to distract—is a risk. Some days more than others. And today, choosing to walk home in silence prompted a familiar jab of anxiety that I have felt, on a much larger scale, when taking the bigger risks in my life. Risks like going freelance, buying my house, starting a relationship, asking for help.

How about you? Are you contemplating a risk of your own today, big or small? If so, I offer these words, just for you.

The Biggest Risk of All

To stand at the edge of
the sure and the unsure,
the here and the who knows,
the safe and the shaking in your boots,
is to stand where life

It is in that exact space
(some might call it
sacred space)
where hope lives
and breathes.

For that is the very point
dreams can launch
or love begin;
where freedom can start
or healing take root.

But it is also—
just as easily—
where all of it can come crashing
depending on an endless variation
of things we can
and cannot

Because the thing about risk is
there’s no guarantee,
no warranty,
no crystal ball,
and sometimes,
no turning back.

You might win,
you might succeed,
you might soar and thrive.

But you might also fail,
or flail,
or fall flat on your face.

It might hurt.
It might take your breath
or your pride away.
It might leave you with
a mess.
A rejection.
A scar.
A whole new definition
of fear.

And, if you take enough
it probably will.

But, if you take enough
it probably will
do something else to you
as well.

It will show you that
you can survive.
You are strong.

And it might just give you
the courage to risk

What I know for sure is that,
some days,
for some of us,
it’s a risk just to get up in the morning.
It’s a risk to love.
To forgive.
To hope.
To say yes.
To say no.
To start.
To stop.
To show up.
To leave.
To believe.
To try again.

But what I also know is that
of what is
good and real
in life
lies on the other side of
that line—

where fear and courage meet,
where peace and peril mix,
where chance and challenge call—

and to never
step across
would be the biggest risk
of all.

Top image via

Julie Rybarczyk is a freelance writer, fair-weather blogger, and well-intentioned mom who has almost never remembered to send lunch money to school. She’s perpetually the chilliest person living in Minneapolis—so most of the year you’ll find her under layers of wool, behind steaming cups of tea. Or at