5 people of different backgrounds reflect on the biggest risk of their life and how it affected their future.
The year is 1996 when a young African American woman walks into a drug store and shakingly picks up a pregnancy test. She has recently started a new job and has only been in a relationship with the man for five months.
“I had recently started working for Hazelwood School District and I was concerned as to how the district would view and evaluate me being a pregnant unmarried woman who is working with and guiding teens,” Heidi Walker-Morris said.
If the test is positive, it could flip her promising life upside down.
Fast forward and the year is 2005. A 65-year-old white man is moments away from retiring from the job he has worked at all his life that has now begun to grow tiring. Then one morning, a friend approaches him about joining a new, barely developed department group.
“I knew most of the management team and I was dissatisfied with my old job, so it seemed interesting,” Gary Hach said.
If he agrees, he can kiss his dreams of an early retirement and time with family goodbye.
Seven years later, an Indian woman sits on the couch of her living room, listening intently to her parents who stand before her. She currently lives in Delhi, India, and her parents have just set up an arranged marriage for her.
“I would have to put full trust in my parents,” Lovely Das said.
If she accepts, it will dictate the rest of her life with a man she has yet to meet.
And one year later in 2013 back in America, a 5-year-old little white girl takes her first steps up the playground ladder to the monkey bars. Her tiny hands grip each ladder ring tightly and her heart pounds in her chest. Her older sister is supposed to be watching her, but instead laughs at something on her phone. The little girl doesn’t need her anyway.
“It would’ve helped me learn to conquer my fears by myself,” Riley Schoene said.
This is the first time she will do the monkey bars independently and if she does this, she can prove to herself that she can do anything.
Now the year is 2017 as a teenage Filipino boy stands on a high school stage and squints out towards the sea of mostly empty theatre seats. Only two of them are filled, where the director and the music director sit and judge the auditions for the school musical. His palms start to sweat and he states his name and waits for his cue to start singing.
“I wanted to push myself and take myself out of the comfort zone of just doing behind the scene type of musical related activities,” Carlsan Fajardo said.
If he gets in the musical, it could determine how he will spend the rest of his high school career.
Everyone takes risks, but rarely are they able to see how big of an impact they have on their life. Five vastly different people share their stories and, most importantly, are reminded of the importance of taking a risk.
“I have known and been friends with my husband since elementary school but we only dated 5 months before we decided to get married,” Walker-Morris said.
Turns out, the pregnancy test was positive. All the aspects of her life came crashing together at once.
“I had recently started working for Hazelwood School District and I was concerned as to how the district would view and evaluate me being a pregnant unmarried woman who is working with and guiding teens,” Walker-Morris said.
She worked as a Social Worker for the Hazelwood School District Opportunity Center, and still works there today. Her decision for marriage was also made for the future of her children.
“This risk also allowed me to be able to give and show our children a life where both parents are needed and both parents bring different characteristics and abilities together to help mold and shape young people into healthy responsible adults,” Walker-Morris said.
And even though the marriage with her husband was a logical choice, it was still one made from true love.
“…It was worth risking it all for the chance at making marriage and happiness work for me.”
“The biggest reason I ultimately took the risk was because I loved Sean and felt like it was worth risking it all for a chance at making marriage and happiness work for me,” Walker-Morris said.
Das also took a big risk by deciding to marry her husband. But, she had never met, or seen, him before.
“I always do what I think I’m good at, so I never take risks. But my parents wanted this, and it was the biggest risk of my life,” Das said.
Being in an arranged marriage was a big deal for her. Any choice she would make now would be with someone she didn’t even know, with family she didn’t even know. She went through with the marriage though, and never looked back.
“Me and my family are very happy with my decision. My husband gives me all the freedom that I’ve always wanted. When we moved to America, I knew it would be fine because I was with him,” Das said.
Passion, whether for a relationship, work, or a sense of adventure, fuels the existence of risks. Walker-Morris and Das made their risk based on love and trust, while Hach made his risk based on his passion for work and friends.
“I had been working at Boeing since it was called McDonnell Douglas. With this new position, I was able to continue working with products that I liked and knew well as well as working with a wonderful group of people,” Hach said.
The new group he joined was called Strategic Planning at Boeing. They did long-term contracting for military and commercial purposes. There were a lot of unknowns with this job since it was so new. But Hach had all the confidence he needed to be successful.
“…which gave me the confidence to know that I could do whatever I needed to do.”
“I played multiple sports in both high school and college which gave me the confidence to know that I could do whatever I needed to do. I also always felt that I could do any job that someone else had done, even if it was different,” Hach said.
Passion creates confidence which in turn, creates the ability to take risks. And it’s something that is usually done for the hope of a better future.
This is true for Fajardo, who not only went on to do a good audition, but ended up getting a supporting role in the musical.
“I thought ahead to college admission periods and transcripts including extracurricular activities. I guess that could be my background of doing things now that can help me in the future,” Fajardo said.
He went on to do high school theatre, musicals and plays, for the rest of his high school career. He participated as an actor and continued to help behind the scenes. By his senior year, the stage was more like a home and the people there were more like family.
“It made for a great experience by learning new things, meeting new people, seeing the differences in musical acting versus play acting,” Fajardo said.
But, not every risk pans outs so nicely. While we would all like every risk to lead to some great thing, some simply lead to nothing or put you in a worse situation than before.
Schoene, the 5-year-old girl, ended up falling from the monkey bars and landed on her arm. At first, her family thought she had just bruised it. She went on to go to school the next day as if nothing had happened. But, her teacher promptly called her parents to inform them that Schoene had not moved her arm all day. At that point, her parents took her to the hospital.
“I broke my arm because of that and was terrified of monkey bars for five years after that,” Schoene said.
For those five years, Schoene went down slides, swung on swings, played tag, and stayed far, far away from the monkey bars. Her family tried to slowly coach her back to them, but with no luck.
Eventually though, Schoene gave it one more try as a newly 10-year-old.
“When I tried them again I was able to make it, I was so happy I played on the monkey bars every day after that,” said Schoene.
While the initial risk had serious consequences, it was not without a lesson learned.
“If I got the choice I would still do it again, it helped me learn how to overcome my fears and be better. I don’t fear as much now,” Schoene said.
A good risk will have good consequences, whether because one learns from their mistakes or they love the outcome. Just like Hach loved his work…
“I was very proud of this decision as it turned out to be the best risk of my career. I ended up working until I was 73 just because I like the job so much,” Hach said.
…And Das loves her husband.
“I am very proud of my risk. My future will be very beautiful with my husband,” Das said.
The lessons that one learns from the biggest risk of their life will also follow them for the rest of their life.
“That risk affected my future by allowing me to trust and depend on someone other than myself, it allowed me to have a good life, happy family, and a good marriage with the person I still love and want to grow old with. It showed me that sometimes you do need to take risks and that you don’t have to be in control all the time in order for things to work out for the best,” Walker-Morris said.
These five people have vastly different backgrounds, stories, and risks. But all of them can agree on the importance of risk.
“It made me realize I’m more capable of things than I think I am. I think that in experiencing new things, whether they work out or not, are very good and important lessons that you can learn from,” Fajardo said.