One of the lessons I try to teach is the importance of taking risks. Not everyone has the courage to step off the ledge into the great unknown, but if not for the people who do, we would never progress forward as a species or a society. Part of taking the risk is exposing yourself to failure, and as a man who has endured my fair share of failures, I can avow that the sting of falling short is palpable. In this society, we tend only to celebrate and acknowledge success, and we have developed this sensibility that prosperity is solely the result of hard work. When someone fails, society at large tends to blame the person for not working hard enough or not having the mettle to succeed.
But failure is a natural facet of risk. Plenty of people have started businesses or written books or performed music, working just as hard if not harder than those with success, and still failed. Maybe the timing wasn’t right, maybe they mistook the market, maybe they just never got their break. But two things I have learned in my life: hard work does not guarantee success, and failure is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Personally, I would rather endure a thousand failures than live with the knowledge that I didn’t have the courage to try. We as a society need to shift our thinking back to valuing efforts and attempts as much as we value success.
I’ve made the decision to leave education. It’s a risk, I’m aware. Instead of a guaranteed monthly salary, I will be forging ahead into the unknown of freelance pay. Instead of a benefits package, I will have to provide my own insurance and retirement. I understand those risks. The other night on Facebook, someone with good intentions questioned my decision. How will I provide for my sons? How will I survive? She worried that I would regret the decision. On one level, I understand those sentiments. At my age and having been through as much as I have, I grasp the value of safety and security. I get that some people need the stability of a salary and cannot fathom the concept of living without a guaranteed income for the future. I get that. I honestly do.
But despite the stability education affords (although that is dwindling daily under the business model), I find myself suffocating from the bureaucracy. Each and every day, the escalating problems within the system kill a piece of my soul. When I weigh the safety of a stable income against the toll it takes on my person, I no longer find it worth the sacrifices. I would rather risk absolute failure than continue down this path. There is so much more to life than a monthly income and job security, and with whatever time I have left on this planet, I intend to use my greatest gifts to the fullest extent I can.
For those who maybe worry about me, please know, I would not make this leap if I did not believe I could survive. There are mechanisms at work behind the scenes that I’m not yet at liberty to discuss, but please believe that this spring and summer are shaping up to be quite an exciting time. For the first time in a long time, I have real hope that my writing is about to become financially lucrative. While nothing is set in stone and there is still tremendous risk involved, I believe that the time is now. If I stay put out of fear of failure or insecurity about income, I will miss my window and wither away into a broken husk of a man.
So with that in mind, I’m stepping off the ledge, trusting that everything I’ve spent the last ten plus years building is about to come to fruition. I accept the risks, understand the gamble, and know that I may not succeed. But then again, I just might. Because the other side of taking a risk is that it offers an opportunity for a reward. It’s not that I write for money or fame or any of that nonsense. I don’t. I write because I must, because it’s the only thing that makes me feel whole when my children are absent, because people seem to like my characters and stories. I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life giving back in the form of teaching. Now, I’m moving forward solely on my creativity and writing, and I accept the risks involved.