Thursday, October 24, 2013

Risk and Optimism

People call freelancing risky. I've tried the day job thing, and I was laid off from three day jobs in as many years, so my experience is that it's not. Freelancing income is intermittent, yes, and it can get difficult to pay for things when illness keeps you from working, but I can adjust my schedule to work when it suits me. I love that.

Does that mean I like when clients promise me work, then don't deliver? Not usually.

Does that mean I like when clients flake and don't pay what they owe? No. (But in my years freelancing, I've only had two clients flake completely.)

Does that mean I don't think it's risky, or that I think it impossible to crash and burn and destroy your credit by it? Or that I will never take another day job again?

No. I probably will have to take a day job again, sometime, possibly even soon. I seem to have a fear of success, so I'm even more likely to fail than someone who doesn't have that problem, because there's the likelihood of self-sabotage.

I'm aware of some reasons behind that fear of success. I suspect they'll spawn a story or thirty someday.

Any job venture is a risk. Life is risk. And there's no shame in failing something you try (assuming you didn't cause your own failure by unwise behavior).

I know that, I believe it…and I'm as pain-averse as the next person. Short-term pain for long-term goals—that's something I'm staring in the eye, right now, and my natural inclination is to avoid taking the risk.

Hey, I'm a natural pessimist. I see all the risks involved even in a conversation. (Which is part of why I often don't do well in arguments or debates. The other person wants a quick, direct answer. I usually can't give one, because I'm analyzing everything.)

I have to be careful when thinking through an upcoming conversation or situation, because I'll end up anticipating the worst-case scenario if I don't intentionally remember, This is a worst-case scenario. More than once, I've caught myself starting to panic about something that's merely a possibility—and an unlikely one, at that.

Awkward, much. But at least I don't (usually) inflict it on others. When it's probable enough that others might be affected, I'll warn them of the worst-case possibility, and I'll do what I can in advance to mitigate its effects.

So for this choice I'm considering, I see the possible outcomes, one of which would be horrible—but…even that worst-case scenario wouldn't kill me. Things might get incredibly depressing and difficult for a while. The short-term pain and everything involved in my attempt to reach those long-term goals could end in failure.

I do mean everything. It's possible for me to lose my intellectual property, y'all, which means it's possible for me to lose Aleyi and all those other worlds you've enjoyed reading. (To be honest, that's what gives me the most pause.) It would take some time to get to that point, but it's possible.

But I wouldn't be dead. Even in that situation, I could start again, the wiser for my failure, or change my goals.

Some people, significant in my life, believe I will fail. I very well could, and that has me hesitating, but…

I've faced other such choices in my life, and whenever I've picked the easier route, I've regretted it. When I've picked the harder route, I have never regretted it.

If I choose to not act, I believe I will regret it.

And it very well could end up paying off far better than I even dare to hope. In fact, if I look at others like me, with similar or comparable health issues, my goals are too modest.

You know what? I'm going to double the goal that will prevent that worst-case scenario, starting now.

(Pardon me a moment while I dig out some yarn and graph paper. I'm going to crochet that goal into a trivet—black with white text, I think, with that cotton yarn I keep meaning to use. I'm going to hang it on the wall behind my computer until I hit that goal. Then I'll use it as a trivet.)

I choose to be optimistic, which leads people to assume I don't even notice the negatives, much less think through them.

(Where is my graph paper? I must've not used it for longer than I realize.)

And if I happen to tell them I do think through the negatives—it is rare that anybody suggests a negative that hasn't already ocurred to me—they're either startled or disbelieving.

(Argh. I'll just mock it up on lined paper.)

But there's a reason my writing tends to have so much dark/negative in it—that's what I naturally think of. It's difficult for me to be optimistic. But I choose it, because it's better for me and those around me. I've been called na├»ve for pointing out that things—relationships, life—don't have to be [certain negative way].

(Hmm… This would be easier on a spreadsheet.)

Positivity is healthier than negativity. It's even safer, letting me seem unafraid in situations where perceptible fear could get me hurt. Such as when dealing with ticked-off animals.

(Ooo, I think I like that even more than graph paper.)

As for the current choice I'm staring in the eye, there's one major factor that I've not mentioned so far.

(Yes, that looks nice. Pattern's ready to use.)

God's given me peace about it. Even when certain things related to this choice looked impossible, God replaced my panic and worry with peace. There was no logical reason for me to be at peace, a month ago when I was looking at what I wanted to do and saw it as impossible—or, at best, as statistically unlikely. But I took the first steps anyway.

And right when I was wondering, "Um, now how do I do this next one?" a door opened to that next one, in a perfectly unlikely series of events.

So now I'm staring at the next factor in this decision. I still don't see how it'll work out…but every single concern has unexpectedly panned out and been addressed so far. And there are several possibilities in the air that could cause that concern to work.

Taking the step will be risky. It will require optimism. It'll also require trust that I'm interpreting God's messages properly…but I have so many signs pointing to this being what I should do. I claim to believe in God's Providence, so shouldn't I act like it?

But I'm not you. Maybe you're risk-averse to the point that you think I'm crazy. Maybe you're optimistic to the point that you don't understand what it's like to spot a truck with a pole strapped to the roof and to automatically consider how to move your car so you'll be unlikely to get impaled if the pole comes off. (I actually do that.)

That's okay. You're welcome to your optimism or pessimism or risk-aversion or risk-taking. Do it intelligently—don't, say, optimistically think that a wild animal can't bite you—but go ahead. Even the church is made of all types, like the missionaries who go to countries where Christians are persecuted.

Are you naturally more risk-averse or risk-willing? Are you naturally more optimistic or pessimistic? Do you decide to act differently than those natural inclinations? Why?

—Misti

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