I hereby reaffirm

Nate Grady

When I was about 10 years old, my grandfather – a man I will strive to emulate and live up to for the rest of my life – tried to impress upon me the importance of taking risks, something his long years and varied experiences had taught him to deeply value.
He read to me a poem by William Arthur Ward quite aptly entitled “To Risk” that he held very dear. I wish I could claim that this poem struck my 10-year-old heart with life-changing reverberations – that from then on his value was my value, and that, having been provided this insight at such a young age, I was able to bypass years of missed opportunities and regret-filled, sleepless nights.
On the contrary, all I likely managed was some trite, squeakily delivered assurance that “I’ll do my best to remember your advice” – in the hopes it would hasten our trip to Coral Cay 36-hole Mini-Golf – before promptly putting it out of my mind.
I have spent the 12 years since slowly learning what my grandfather relayed to me in about a minute, and why he deemed it so important. As a decidedly shy, and overly-concerned-by-what-was-cool young man, I spent most of high school watching my various hopes slip away – hopes to take part in a play, hopes to stand up for my true beliefs and, of course, hopes to act on my strictly close-mouthed crushes.
Time after time I chose the easy, comfortably padded way out and was racked by days, sometimes months of regret and self-frustration for not auditioning, for not voicing my opinions, for not telling her how I felt. For not. Taking. The Risk.
However, now that I have a few more years behind me and, like Casper, the meaning of my grandfather’s wonderful poem has drifted back to me as a friendly and increasingly pertinent ghost, I have learned for myself what it means to take risks, and why doing so is so important.
Taking risks means finding yourself, asserting your true beliefs and sticking to them. Taking risks means pursuing your passions, your ideals – not recklessly, but without the petty concerns we all have over how other people will react, judge, criticize.
And it really isn’t hard: All you have to do is speak and act and live the truth. All you have to do is let the world in a little, share your inner dialogue, speak what is on your mind.
And while the easy way out always led to regret and frustration, the risk always leads to self-satisfaction and justification. That is not to say I would ever have gotten a part in a play, or that half the girls I was interested in would have in any way returned the sentiment – but still I would have tried. I would have satisfied my yearning, I would have quelled the endless, nagging question of “what if,” I would have been true to myself – and that alone would have been fulfilling.
In taking the risk, I would have opened up the possibility, something that the easy way out fundamentally cannot do.
For as Ward poignantly sums it up, “The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing and is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love – live. Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave, he has forfeited freedom. Only a person who risks is free.”
I’d like you to know, Grandpa, that at long last, I too am free.Editor’s note: “I hereby reaffirm,” a new corner of the The Lawrentian, aims to foster a campus-wide dialogue about personal belief. What do you believe? Think about it, write it down, and send it to lawrentian@lawrence.edu