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  • Writer's pictureSherise Schlaht

RISKING RISK

I haven’t felt compelled or inspired to write as of late, so today is an attempt to portray the mess that is and has been my mind (as usual). Bear with me on this #thoughtfultuesday as I place my fingers on the keyboard and allow the words to unfold. I stumbled across an interesting post on an Instagram Account I have followed since its conception, known as House of Leaders. It indicated that if a shark were placed in a fishbowl, it would only grow to eight inches. If the same shark were in the ocean, it would grow to eight feet (or more). The moral of this depiction is that a shark will never outgrow its environment. As I state this, I can clearly hear the voice of my Statistics Professor parroting, “Correlation does not imply causation.” Although I cannot say that one’s environment is a determinant of one’s trajectory, I can state with confidence that there is a relationship between one’s environment and one’s trajectory. In extrapolating this to humankind, if our environment is limiting, there exists the probability that it will impact our growth and development. Basically, I am indirectly saying that we are sharks, or at the very least share some portion of our DNA with sharks. Out of curiosity, I entered a random Google Search on this topic. A non-scholarly and highly subjective source estimates that we share sixty to seventy percent of our DNA with sharks. So readers, if you take nothing else from this post today, know that we are more than half shark.


On a serious note, much resonates with this analogy. For the past many weeks, I have been attempting to document my experiences with risk and risk aversion. Apparently, there is no better time than the present to do so. In exploring the phenomenon of risk, I will be unpacking my pitfalls and learnings; it is my hope that they are delivered coherently and are a source of insight. As a perfectionistic child, I was frequently incapacitated by a grandiose fear of failure. Decisions (regardless of their magnitude) were excruciating, as there was no means of guaranteeing the “right” or “best” outcome. From an outside (and now adult) perspective, it is blatantly apparent that there is no predictability in a future event. This has taken many years of involvement to recognize. In fact, I will go so far as to state, if I enter a situation or make a decision based on a future outcome, I have lost to begin with. Hold this thought, as I will return to it once we have explored the journey from there to here. As you can likely imagine, I avoided risk and perceived danger at any and all cost. This persisted throughout childhood and much of my adolescence. In the illusive pursuit of perfection, any choice or behaviour that strayed from its conjured label elicited panic. Although this may not appear to be problematic in a snapshot, I advise you to read Psychiatric Prisoner, or any other posts for that matter. I can assure you that I am equally as mad as someone who falls on the other end of the spectrum; opposite sides of the same coin. The point of this mentioning is that I so rigidly adhered to the notion of perfectionism, that it became an all-consuming identity. This can manifest in a myriad of ways, but my token obsessions were anorexia nervosa, compulsive exercise, and neurotic fixation on academics. Ironically, the more consumed I became in these pursuits, the more they became an avenue of rebellion. Upon hospitalizations and psychiatric admittances, I grew increasingly enraged and possessed, looking for any avenue to indulge in my obsessions. Despite my many attempts to resist the authority of these institutions, I eventually realized that my rebellions only led to further restriction and suffering. I liken this experience to the breaking of the wild spirit of an undomesticated horse. As I settled and adhered, I felt completely bewildered and fragmented.


Upon obtaining freedom, where the obsessive-self once rested, there now existed a gaping black void of nothingness. I sought experiences and behaviours that obliterated the nothingness. Fatefully, the fallout of these happenings contributed to the pain of the nothingness, leading to the need for more annihilation. This is the replica of the addictive pathway, which can play out infinitely. Luckily in my case, I recognized my participation in the downturn of events and grew tired of this pattern. The outcome was what I have formerly identified as the puddle-self; a year and a half period of hibernation. Here I had returned full circle to risk aversion.


Over the past year, the presence of the black void of nothingness has waned; it has been replaced by an enchanting night’s sky, alight with glimmering stars. The lost self has dissolved into this infinitely whole essence. From this place, I am rediscovering what it means to take risks. As I stretch myself to actively embrace unknown and uncomfortable territory, fear is present, yet it is not overriding. What is the difference between then and now? I have found a means of taking risk for the sake of taking a risk, embracing it as a transformational opportunity. At times I can be lured by the temptation of acting for a desired outcome, which despite the outcome elicits disappointment. Since my self-worth is no longer solely rooted in an action or its anticipated response, my wholeness is less fragile. It is an incredibly celebratory experience to encounter hurt, disillusionment, or even ecstasy without a drastic disruption in self or functioning. In writing this, I am in awe of the grace I am afforded in witnessing the middle way that Chinese Mystics have been discussing for over two-thousand years. Although there is a sense of arrival, I know too well than to expect this tranquility to be everlasting. In the next moment, the mind can sweep in and take me on a completely different course. In reflecting on today’s message as a whole, I am reminded of the gift of presence. If we are able to be present with the now, there exists the ability to enjoy immersion in the process. Paradoxically, if we consistently return to the present, the existence of the future drops away entirely. In the absence of future, our self is not precariously riding on a reaction. So my fair readers, in addition to knowing that we are more than half shark, may you also take risk for the sake of taking the risk and allow yourself to embrace the play of existence.


As my Mentor ends all of our conversations:


Keep on rocking in the free world,


Sherise

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