Wednesday, July 12, 2017

PERSONAL: We Could All Die Tomorrow.

Apologies for the clickbait-y title, but... well, it isn't clickbait-y at all, actually. It's a major focal point of this piece, and it's not actually a bad thing.

No, I promise I'm not here to get you to join a cult. Honest. I mean, not yet anyway. There's still a lot of groundwork I'd need to do first. I don't launch anything without some major planning beforehand.

Recently I've been talking with some friends who are all making various different life changes. Some big, some small. Some work, some family, some more just personal outlook. And I find a recurring questions across all the discussions is, "But what if this goes wrong?"

It's a fair question, really. And it's one we all have to ask before we do anything. Many YouTubers looking for ad revenue have lost their lives because they didn't ask this question. And hell, it's one I ask myself every time I take on something new: what if this doesn't work out? What if this expenditure of energy is for nothing?

Well, per the usual, it's always easier to give someone else advice than it is to listen to my own. And I heard myself responding to someone with words I wish I'd had for myself years ago:

"That's called life."

That's not me saying "Suck it up." That's not me saying "Deal with it." It's literally... well, "what if it goes wrong" is the underpinning of living day to day, moment to moment. Which is generally only a philosophy we hear when talking about taking a leap of faith in love or trying something new. But it applies to the mundane, too.

I'm a freelancer. My life is the definition of "What If It Doesn't Work Out." I could wake up tomorrow morning to find that both my primary writing clients have gone bankrupt and all the publishers putting my next stories out went under. It's not likely, but it is nonzero. Do contracts exist? Yes. I'm up to my neck in them. But life happens and People do Things and money disappears when it shouldn't. We get sick. We get fired for weird reasons that only the boss's pampered kid knows. Or you could just get hit by a car out of nowhere.

Here's the thing I had to get through my head and the heads of others: being afraid is not always your high sign that you shouldn't do something. Sometimes it absolutely is. Don't juggle those machetes. Don't jump off that bridge. Don't walk into your boss's office and insult her. There are some basic self-preservation techniques that, yeah, if you're afraid, there's a reason.

But take me. Long-standing readers of my blog may remember the day I became a freelancer. I cleared out the desk I'd occupied for ten years, leaving this job of my own volition, with planning and forethought... and then I came home and I cried. I was terrified. What if I'd made the wrong choice? What if I sucked at this kind of work? What then? What if I'd ruined my entire life?

And yeah, I've had some hard luck. And I've had to make adjustments. But I didn't die. The fact that getting to where I am was hard doesn't mean it was the wrong decision.

For what it's worth, I'm not a big proponent of selling all your belongings and hitchhiking across the country. I mean, if that's what you want to do, do it. But I've never been the sort to encourage people to just ditch everything for a bohemian lifestyle. That's a little too dangerous even more me.

But no. It's the matter of adult, real-world decisions. Do I do A or B? What if B is really hard? I'm really afraid of doing B even though all signs point to it being a good decision in the long run. But what if it goes all wrong?

And my answer goes back to my title. We could all die tomorrow. My decision to get out of bed this morning automatically put my life into flux, as it does every morning. Any decision to do puts us at risk. And I'm not here to gives you platitudes about the thrill of risk-taking and stuff. I'm just here to tell you what I've learned.

Life is a long line of events that could end poorly. The possibility of something going badly is not, on its own, the same as proof that it is a bad idea to be avoided. A jump taking more work and planning than not jumping is not a sign that you shouldn't jump. And it's also super-okay to be afraid of these things, provided the fear doesn't paralyze you.

There are other metrics to decide whether a choice is worth the risk or not. Never let anyone scare you into thinking that the existence of a risk at all is a bad sign. Or you'd never step out of bed in the morning.