Taking Time to Risk

Risk-taking is an essential element of developing one’s potential and staying creative. If we continue to do the same, known routines and avoid challenge, our world will stay small and uneventful. In other words, BORING!

Recently, I initiated an adventure by traveling to San Francisco and staying for several weeks. Part of my interest in going there was to visit my son, but the underlying reason for my journey was to break out of my everyday patterns and find stimulation in the unknown.

The San Francisco Bay is a familiar place in many ways, as I’ve been there numerous times over the past twenty years, and feel a strong sense of connection to the area. My creative juices always get flowing when I am there. This time I opted to stay at my son’s apartment, in the Tenderloin, an area near the theater district and downtown. Often regarded as one of the seedier parts of town, I found it to be relatively tame and charming. Since I was on my own much of the time, I had to figure out the layout of the streets and the schedules of the public transportation system in order to get around. Learning to get around in this busy city became a source of pride by the end of my stay.

Each day in San Francisco brought a sense of excitement, accompanied by an equal sense of anxiety. There were so many beautiful and interesting places to visit, but the challenge was in getting to these places. Setting goals for myself was easy, but reaching those goals often involved a number of steps that were intimidating, if not downright scary.

For instance, I wanted to travel down the coast to Big Sur one day. I had the use of my son’s car, and the first step was to retrieve the car from a garage in the next block. Once in the car, I noted on the map which streets would lead me to the freeway. Next, I had the task of dealing with city traffic while also keeping an eye out for the various exits that would take me to the coast.

At each step, I felt anxious and unsure of myself, as is the case for most of us when we try something new. But simply being unsure would not dissuade me from continuing on my journey. Pushing myself beyond the barriers of comfort and familiarity was also opening me to the exhilaration of beautiful scenes along the highway. Driving the winding roads along Highway 1 exposed me to fabulous views of the ocean, pine forests, and fields of flowers exploding in riotous color. I would have missed all that beauty if I’d been unwilling to risk the challenge of driving there on my own.

Another day in the city, I planned to visit a friend by riding a ferry across the bay. I underestimated the distance from my son’s apartment to the ferry building, then found a detour because the building was being renovated. As a result, I got lost for a bit and panicked, but managed to find the ferry in time, so all was well. I met my friend as planned, and we drove to the Napa Valley for our afternoon visit.

With each successful result that came from my efforts, being in the city became more exhilarating. Towards the end of my stay, I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County, where I hiked in Muir Woods, and enjoyed the ocean at Muir Beach, accompanied by my niece. She shared tales and photos of her recent travels to Costa Rica during our trek. On the return trip to the city, I managed to drive in rush hour traffic with no real discomfort. With each adventure, I stored up more confidence and joy. Like any kind of growth, having the courage to risk will be accompanied by “growing pains”, but the success of reaching our goals in the end will be well worth the effort. It might help to remember that adventure is a relative thing. My sojourn in the city would seem tame to my niece, who has lived there and now travels on her own around the world. On the other hand, several of my friends back home in Kansas said they’d be afraid to ever travel alone in a city like San Francisco, much less drive the freeways there!

When it came time for my adventure to end, I found I was reluctant to leave. I had survived many anxious moments, but they paled in comparison to all the rich experiences that evolved during my stay. Now I have many wonderful stories, photos and memories to enjoy for years to come. Having the courage to risk, whether it be in our relationships, our careers or our creative lives, is essential to our growth and evolution. Take some time this summer to create an adventure for yourself, and notice how anxiety inevitably leads to you to an expanded understanding of the world and your place in it.

© 2001 Marybeth Bethel