Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Living Outside My Box

This is the second of my two guest appearances filling in for Brian Curry in the Long Island Advance. I'm hopeful that there will be others.

My life over the past year has been one of risk taking. It’s been a process of finding out who the woman is that’s buried deep inside of me, just screaming to get out. Well, maybe she’s not screaming, but she’s knocking very loudly for me to open the door.

Last summer I read a great book that had a significant impact on my view of life. I could not resist the temptation to break out the yellow highlighter, normally reserved for text books, and turn lines and paragraphs of that book iridescent yellow. It was a story told about a middle aged woman who one day finds herself in the position of having to get a new life. Wow, how familiar did that sound?

While sitting around reading with yellow highlighter in hand, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to hang out with this woman. And as I read, the realization hit that I didn’t have to go looking. I was this woman, that somewhere inside of me, she already existed. I just had to figure out how to open the door and let her out. It also made me realize that I did not have to limit myself to the box I was living my life in. That there is an entire world outside of my comfort zone and I needed to go and find it.

I’m a planner, which also leads to a tendency to over think things. I’ve discovered that if you want to be a risk taker, sometimes you just have to “do,” instead of think and plan, and then think some more, to the point where you have “thought” yourself out of doing whatever it was you wanted to do. Planning is not a bad thing and I still do it, but I don’t “think” myself out of things anymore. If my intuition feels right, my new policy is to just forge ahead.

For me, the gradual method of risk taking works best. I’ve spent this past year looking for activities that are of interest to me, but yet are things that I have no experience with and have hesitated to do on my own. Taking the train to New York City alone and making my way about using the subways and buses was a huge undertaking, as was my recent field trip to City Island, which required me to drive over a very large bridge, also alone. Sure, sometimes I get turned around and a little lost in the city, but I keep managing to find my way back to Penn Station, and as it turned out, driving over the bridge was a breeze and not one of the many car dilemmas I have feared for so long came to pass.

Writing as a freelancer for this newspaper is yet another example of doing something risky. Encouraged by a friend to write for someone other than myself, when I saw the ad for a freelance reporter I applied, even though I had not one shred of experience with news reporting. So often we limit ourselves by never taking chances and risks and in no way, taking the smallest step outside of our boxes. It was a big risk to step outside my comfort zone in such a public manner, but has turned out to be great fun and has been a wonderful new experience.

So far, all these steps outside of my box seem to have worked out. I now travel to and from the city by myself without giving it a second though. My drive over the Throgs Neck bridge gave me the confidence to believe that I can now drive myself anywhere, and here I am for a second week, writing in “Brian’s box.”

The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned over the past year is that I can dream big, but without an ability to take chances and risks, that’s all they’ll ever be, dreams. It’s not easy to live outside the box, but so far it’s been well worth the effort, and it gets easier with each passing day. Many small steps later, I have left the box I use to live in. It’s so far behind me now that it’s no longer visible.

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