I thought of this in the middle of the night. I remembered how five years ago, Greg and I made an offer on the house where we live now, moving forward with inspections and negotiating. We had listed our house for sale by owner, and were actively showing it.
At some point, we realized that we could not actually close on one house without selling the other. Writing this now sounds phenomenally naive. On the other hand, it is the kind of naivete that you could argue is at the heart of many major life decisions: making commitments to people, having babies, taking jobs or leaving them, moving to new places, all without any guarantee of outcome. There’s a certain degree of faith here in things working out – and in one’s own ability to adapt if they don’t.
There I was, lying in bed last night thinking I did it again – shoot, ready, aim – when I applied to grad school without really taking into consideration the fact that even if I get a fellowship, and that is most certainly a big if, how could we afford for me to only earn a small stipend for two years?
In the case of the house, things did work out. We sold ours to a great family, and moved two months later. If we always waited to know how things would go, what would our lives be? I’m not talking about living solely by the seat of our pants, without plans, or of being so self-absorbed that we don’t give thoughtful consideration to how our decisions will affect others. We do consider the risks. But as a recent article from the Harvard Business Review points out, “Risk is ultimately a personal assessment: what is risky for me is not risky for you.”
God knows I would not have gone away last week if I had worried too much about what would happen if one of the kids got sick while I was away, or how the re-entry would be. We would never have made an offer on this house, had a second child, quit jobs to take risks or taken jobs to mitigate them. Ultimately, maybe shoot-ready-aim isn’t a bad modus operandi, assuming we are willing to look up, to ask and really confront the question: Is it working?
It is the oldest cliche in the book. Life is a journey. We can’t always get our aim perfect before moving forward. As Murial Rukeyser, one of my favorite poets, wrote: “The journey is my home.” And to be at home on the journey, with all its bends and turns and twists of fate – that is the best outcome I can imagine.