What’s Most Important – as most of the speakers have talked about, this is a tough question to answer… Depending on the time in my life, I most certainly would have answered this differently. Ever since Bob asked me to speak this semester, each Tuesday I’ve been reflecting on what I wanted to speak about. Right now in my life, while this may not be MOST important, taking chances and taking risks have taken me to where I am today.Risks
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool,
To weep is to risk being called sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk showing your true self.
To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naive.
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure
But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love.
Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom.
Only the person who risks is truly free.By: Janet Rand
In this case, the apple does not fall too far from the tree. My parents have taken a variety of risks along the way, starting with moving from the small town they grew up in near Youngstown, Ohio to the other side of the state as a young couple. My mom always reminds me of this as we discuss my sister and I living in Portland, Oregon and Boston respectfully. They too took a risk, leaving both of their families, friends, and loved ones to start a new life in Napoleon, Ohio – where I was born and raised. As a young family in Napoleon, they met friends in their apartment complex that would soon become their “chosen family”, my God parents. They found more “chosen family” in their new congregation at Emmanuel Lutheran Church and as the years continue to add up, I’ve seen them taking risks in both of their careers, some didn’t turn out as they had hoped, but they were honest with my sister and I about their decisions, these decisions have become more clear to me as I face and have faced them in my adult life.
My parents continued to take a chance, both financially and adjusting our families lifestyle by enrolling me in The Toledo Ballet when I was 15 years old after dancing locally since I was 4 years old. Toledo was at least an hour drive each way, and they shuttled me back and forth a few times a week and nightly when we were in rehearsals and performance for the Nutcracker, sometimes until midnight on a school night! I was absolutely in love with dancing, so it only made sense that would be my career. As a young adult, facing the decision to attend college, I didn’t take the road less followed, I applied for one school, The Ohio State University – I knew (or thought I knew) what my life would look like, I would go to Ohio State, major in Dance, become Britney Spears back up dancer, simple as that. I even opted out of a calculus class in my senior year of high school that would typically be required for most programs at OSU, because it wasn’t required for Dance, turns out I would eventually need to take that difficult calculus class to graduate at OSU. Long story, short – I am not currently and have never been Britney’s back up dancer. Through a series of failures, including not even getting accepted into the Ohio State school of Dance, I had to seriously reevaluate my “life plan”. During this time of reflection, I started to participate in Ohio State’s fitness classes to stay fit. And during one of these classes, I decided that it was pretty cool to teach aerobics and I also realized that I could get paid for it! Then, as you may imagine, I taught a variety of fitness classes throughout the rest of my career at OSU.
Then graduation came, what now? I was offered a full time job at a High Intensity training center for athletes in Columbus, and then shortly after an on campus interview in Cambridge (a city I’ve never visited before), I was offered a position at MIT. I talked to as many people as possible looking everywhere for the right decision. I called past professors, each of my supervisors at Dublin and Ohio State, no one could tell me exactly what I should do. I was so frustrated, confused, and the fact was, I needed to make a decision quickly. I was leaving for a 2 month back packing trip around Europe with my sister and would have to start either job immediately upon returning to the US. I think most of you know what way I went and I'm so glad I did. And a few years ago, feeling comfortable in life, on a spontaneous trip to South Beach in Miami, I met my now fiancé. He lived there, I lived here - our whole relationship was based on taking a risk on someone you loved. He knew from the day we met, that I was his soul mate so him moving across the country to be with me didn't seem like much of a risk for him, but for me, it was another time where I was uncomfortable at first but know now it was the best decision I could have ever made.
Looking back, when I was deciding on which job to take back in 2006, I was asking myself this same question... what IS most important? This was the first time in my life when my path wasn't clear. It's funny because I haven't really thought about how difficult that decision was in a long time. For me, it was more than my "gut feeling" and in life, sometimes that's what you rely on, other times its advice from others, or maybe you lean one way because it's right for your family, and not just you. I loved Janet Rand's poem about risk, it made me really think about all of the decisions we make in our lives, from holding the door for someone on the T, or taking a job in a faraway place - each have rewards, each can be considered risky. For me, it's MOST important to find a balance between risking failure and staying comfortable. At MIT, this type of work ethic is evident every day and I think it part of the reason I love working here. Either way, the big decisions I've made and many of us make, fall somewhere on the continuum of "taking a chance" or "risking the unknown" - it may or may not pay off, but in the end - you're guaranteed to have learned something and grown as a person through it all.
Do one thing every day that scares you - Eleanor Roosevelt
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