Calculating RiskJul 01, 2021 06:00AM ● By Kim Green
Years ago, my awakening came when my financial advisor casually befuddled me with an off-the-cuff question.
“How tolerant of risk are you?”
Calmly, I responded, “Not tolerant. At all.”
Gracefully, she coaxed me with a well-worn monologue about the importance of risk tolerance. She said, “When you can tolerate a little more risk, your gains can be much greater than your losses.” This simple and targeted explanation hit me in a powerful way. It changed my life and saved it at the same time.
You see, once upon a time, I was extremely risk-averse. I am a woman so afraid of childbirth that I chose adoption as the safest alternative. I still avoid crowds, rollercoasters and people who believe that citizens need or deserve guns. I don’t enjoy any activity that involves falling, blood loss or loss of limbs. I can’t watch action movies because of the blood. I am delighted by the mask mandate and, although I am fully vaccinated, I just ordered a new color palette of masks which I plan to wear for the long haul.
My fear of risk should be no surprise. Fear has been genetically instilled. I am an African American woman raised by a wary ancestry. Distrust is my nature. Objectively, I know that my former fearfulness was unreasonable, overarching and cultural due to an undeniable history. I only reveal these deeply held secrets, not because I am proud, but because I celebrate how much I’ve grown. I understand how fear limits the very expanse of the soul. The ability to take risks is one of the foundational attributes of freedom.
As the bad news in 2020 droned on and on about rage politics, indecision, mass murders, racial reckoning and inert and inept politicians, my four walls started to close in on me. So many of the ideals and truths that I held sacred were being washed away by a raging sea of newfangled hatred. The only way I could handle it was to shout, “I gotta get out of here!” at Chris Cuomo every night.
The “Apocalypse of 2020” sent souls scurrying, desperate for something new to counteract the constant vertigo. Out of the blue, risk whispered in my ear: “Stop complaining. Do something.”
Nevertheless, armed with an ever-expanding list of new things to fear—travel, hotel rooms, rental cars, door handles, poorly vented restaurants, public bathrooms, groceries, recalled hand sanitizer, deadly vaccines—I prepared my house for sale. I found a realtor, mapped out a safe four-day version of the journey to our new destination and took bold steps forward to a new unknown.
“Isn’t moving across the country for younger people? Who will you have to support you all the way out there?”
As I listened to these concerns about our move, it became even more exhilarating to me. The non-existent answer to their inquiries made it even more liberating. It would just be my spouse and me, braving the wild, wild West as we had always dreamed. We had only each other to rely on. The not knowing is the very promise of new possibilities that will restore the energy that the pandemic has sucked out of us.
It was the most significant calculated risk of my entire life. What did I really have to lose but the tragic regret of not acting on the call from my tattered spirit? I needed to stretch myself further than ever before. I had become too complacent. I needed to re-learn how to use all of my faculties, survive a whole new set of challenges, learn my way and be present in each moment. Now, in the wilderness, we are charged with becoming kinder, gentler human beings and keeping our eyes open. The animals are always watching.
July is the month we celebrate independence; making this risky move has been the most formidable way for me to show my independence. This month, I celebrate risking everything I have ever known to gain everything I have yet to know. ❧
Author and coach Kim Green works with clients who are ready for transformation in their writing or in their lives. An Atlanta resident for 18 years, she only recently moved to Arizona. Reach her at BlankPageConsult.com or 678-938-2777.