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Going For It!

The Risks We Take

While the insidious and rampant Covid-19 virus swirls around, these times offer a chance to reflect. What are your life’s milestones so far? What risks have you taken that have given you a sense of accomplishment, inspired you, possibly led you to an invigorating, exciting path?

What is important for you to do next?

Why not take a chance and do something you’re passionate about? Stretch yourself and your abilities! Pursue a risk that will benefit you, and maybe others—one where you’ll say “I’m so glad I did that!”

Virus fears abound and you may worry about your health and mortality. For now, you’re wise to be cautious to protect yourself. This unsettling virus will pass. Stay positive and think what you still want to do. Perhaps research your genealogy, lead a community initiative, tutor, paint, sketch, write.

If you’re “older” (whatever age you define as “older”), you may wonder about your remaining quality time. When friends and family caution, “You’re too young or too old for that” or “You might get hurt,” are these helpful warnings, or not?

Studying risk-taking is a passion of mine. Having interviewed many people, especially older women, their stories became the book Women Going For It! Taking Risks After 50, which I published at age 66. No matter your age, or gender, risk-taking applies to everyone, and can have lasting and positive consequences.

Three Risk-Taking Story Highlights

An accomplished neurologist became interested in politics, ended her medical career after age fifty, ran for office, and won. Now Patricia Hymanson of Maine, is an elected state representative applying her medical background to promoting critical health care legislation. Patty advises, “Sit peacefully with yourself for a while. Think about things that make you happy. How can you bring things to life you do every day? You have to have faith. If you do, good things will follow. Plan, plan, plan.”

Donate your kidney to a stranger? While rare, it’s critical. You provide an invaluable gift. Kim McFarlane, of Florida (formerly New York state), did just that. While line dancing, she was inspired by an older woman who had donated her kidney to her husband. Kim researched online and found a young father and husband who was desperate for a kidney. She carefully followed Albany, New York’s transplant center’s directions, and underwent extensive testing and counseling before surgery. Kim is modest about her gift of life. She says, “I had a good support team. I had full faith in the doctors and was confident in their abilities. I wasn’t nervous.” She advises, “If you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to try something, go for it! Life is short—you only live once!”

I met Gladys DeJesus Mitchell at Harlem’s Dempsey Theatre, after she passionately sang with Alive! 55 and Kickin’. Gladys always sang powerfully—but only in church, never in public. She was too shy. Prodded by her daughters and friends, she auditioned, and made the cut in the rigorous competition. Living through a heart attack and family tragedies, she continues to perform. Gladys says, “Fear is a natural feeling. Everyone is afraid of the unexpected. You have to take a chance or you’ll live another fifty years thinking you shoulda, coulda, woulda. Go for it! Never give up!”

Take a Risk and Thrive!

Nearly all risk-takers feel some trepidation when pursuing the unknown. Fear can immobilize or propel you. Responsible risk-taking, which isn’t likely to injure yourself or others, is rewarding. Tolerance for risk varies tremendously depending on age, experiences, and circumstances. Run for office? Donate your kidney to a stranger? Sing in public? Travel solo? Teach? What appeals to you?

Practice self-care and dream about pursuing your gut-feeling want-to-dos. Create a plan. Enjoy the ride. Thrive!

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