Can a safenik become a risk taker?

The posting below was originally an entry in a contest on Susan Bearman’s blog Two Kinds of People My piece didn’t win, but the photo of Kylie was such a big hit that it’s going to be on the blog, even if my writing isn’t.


There are two kinds of people in the world—those who play it safe and risk takers.

My husband and daughter are risk takers. They’ve both been skydiving. Not me. I’m the perfect amount of thrilled riding the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

My husband and daughter are intrigued by what’s new and enjoy trying out different things, like listening to the latest bands and taking up yoga. I’ve always been one of those people who took her time to get comfortable with something and then hunkered down for the duration. When I find an activity I like, it becomes a habit. I have done the Jumble during breakfast for as long as I can remember.

My husband and daughter are willing to take chances. My husband started his own business, and kept that one going while starting a second one. My daughter goes to college across the country far from friends and family in a place where the weather is not as accommodating as her homein Berkeley.

Me? I never want to move away from the Bay Area. Why would I? It’s perfect. As far as my career goes, I decided during my second year as an undergrad that I wanted to become an elementary school teacher, a job with benefits and a steady if not spectacular income. Having made that decision, I never looked back. Not once did I question my choices or consider doing anything else. I bought a house not too far from the school where I assumed I would work for the rest of my life and sent my only child there. I was a teacher and that was that.

Until I lost my job.

I’d made a plan when I was 19, and I followed through. But just because I’d written it all down in my lesson plan book didn’t mean that the school had those plans as well. I thought I’d done everything the way I was supposed to and felt betrayed. The ground had disappeared beneath me, and I was falling through unknown territory.

I know I could have just taught somewhere else, but I felt like a jilted sweetheart who would never love again, and it made me question everything I’d assumed my entire adult life. When I finally stopped crying and feeling sorry for myself, I tried to figure out what to do. But isn’t 44 too old to become something else?

Apparently not.

It turns out I didn’t miss going to faculty meetings at all! And it’s so convenient to be able to make a doctor’s appointment for any time of day at any time of year, instead of trying to snag the few 4:00 slots or put everything off until the summer. I can also use the restroom any time I need to—no waiting for recess! And as a non-teacher, I can eat lunch whenever I want to. I still eat pretty much right at noon, but the option is there. The freedom simply boggles my mind.

So I made a new plan. I decided to write books for children, and I set out to do everything one should do in order to make that happen. I took workshops, attended conferences, got a membership to SCBWI, joined a critique group, started a blog, read publishing books with titles like How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published, and—oh yeah—did a lot of writing.

When an agent gushed that she loved my middle-grade novel and wanted to represent me, I figured that was it—I was well on the way to my carefully planned second stage of life. Whew!

Except the 14 publishers that she showed it to weren’t as enthused, and she decided she was no longer as excited either once she read my rewrite. The whole married-to-my-plan concept was tripping me up again.

But thanks to my husband, I have a day job editing and proofreading, which has turned out to be an excellent fit for my talents of correcting everyone’s spelling and grammar anyway. And I still write. I write my blog, pieces for local online newspaper, the AlbanyPatch, and children’s poems. And when I’m feeling really brave, I work on my middle-grade novel that got rejected or my chapter book that I haven’t submitted yet.

And then a crazy thing happened: someone invited me to speak at her ladies club luncheon. My immediate internal response was no. That was not my plan. Speaking is not writing. What would I say? And why would they want to listen to me?

But I said yes.

The old me would have politely declined. But the new me is trying hard to be open to opportunities. The new me wants to be a risk taker. The new me thought it was scary but might be kind of fun.

Then the nominating committee for the California Writers Club asked if I would become the next club president. I had already told my husband that it wasn’t the right job for me. After all, the old me has always been more of a behind-the-scenes person than the spokesperson out front. But the new me thought, why not—what’s the worst that could happen?

Okay, it’s not like I decided to go skydiving with my husband and daughter, but I accepted an invitation to speak at a club luncheon and a high-profile position in a prestigious writers club. Who knows what I’ll do tomorrow? I may just eat lunch at 1:00 or not do the jumble during breakfast.



4 thoughts on “Can a safenik become a risk taker?

  1. Tanya,

    I love the title prompt of today’s blog. I love it so much I may put it in my queue of topics for my own blog. Good ideas for blogs are gifts and I thank you.

    And since you’ve been the finest editor of Write Angles, the newsletter of the Berkeley Branch of the California Writers Club, I am safe in predicting you will be the best president ever.

  2. What a great piece. As a non-risk taker, I can relate! While you may not be junping out of planes, I count you as one of the happiest, most true-to-yourself person that I’ve ever known. While the teaching job has ended, you are an amazing educator and taught me so much about being an engaging, creative, and wildly risk-taking educator! You helped me start my career as a teacher and I am forever grateful.
    Your not-so-secret admirer

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