Monday, March 31, 2014

Calculated Risk: Look Before You Leap

In a conversation with a friend about a year ago, I realized for the first time that I am a risk taker.  We were chatting about an upcoming trip – a two-week visit to the D.R. to pick a field site for my research while I was 6 months pregnant with my second child. Until that moment when she asked if I was generally a risk-taker, I would have never associated myself with risk.  I might have even described myself as highly cautious – yet, I could identify several risks I had taken in my life (including buying my first car – a stick shift – from Atlanta when I didn’t how to drive a stick shift…I learned on the four-hour drive home from Atlanta to Charlotte). 

This trip is a risk.  But I like to think that it is a calculated risk with benefits that far outweigh the challenges.  The challenges include a year of homesickness and the seemingly colossal feat of moving our family to another country.  The benefits include cultural and linguistic immersion for my children, an amazing research opportunity, and a chance to create unique family memories. 

One thing I am not taking for granted is that our family is in a good position to take this trip.  Even as I hope to encourage parents thinking about decisions like this one, I recognize that not all families have the stars line up the way they happened to line up for us.  For example, my husband is finishing up a Master’s program this May, so he is transitioning from student to early career professional – not a bad time to look for a job in a new place.  We both served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, so we are returning to a familiar place facing a few manageable new circumstances, rather than navigating a sea of newness.  Money matters, and while our financial situation is precarious (two graduate students and two children), I am sure that my research will get us funding for living expenses while we are there - see the “kaleidoscope” entry :-).

So the risk is there, but so is the calculation.  Ultimately, I’m still getting comfortable with my new identity as a risk taker.  But I found a quote that sums up how I would like to be:

“Be wise enough not to be reckless, but brave enough to take great risks.”
― Frank Warren

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