The Opposite of Settling is Taking A Chance

There’s this song by emo powerhouse Dashboard Confessional – you’d know it – that goes, ‘My hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me.’ When Chris Carrabba, its singer, sings it live he always says, “This is about the best day ever.” It’s sweet. It gets you when you’re fifteen and suddenly you’re almost twenty nine and it still hasn’t let you go.

That’s the thing about high hopes. They don’t let go.

It takes a good couple of hours to get anywhere when you live in the middle of nowhere. Especially when the life you’re ready to lead is a good couple of hours away.

When you see the good in things, you can block a lot of bad out. You can settle, a little bit, for the way things are. You can forget about how everything could be.

Bridging the gap means taking a chance, or taking a bunch of them to see what sticks. A conversation, a meeting, an interview. A concert, a party, a conference. An international trip. When the alternative is not doing those things – that’s no alternative at all.

That’s settling.

So you book the ticket, you board the plane. If no one wants to join you, you go by yourself. You stay where you want. You do what you want. You get a whole holiday’s worth of memories you don’t have to compromise on. To settle for.

Or you buy the ticket. You line up for the show. You stand where you want, sing as loud as you want, leave when you want. You go.

You meet the stranger. You get vulnerable. And maybe you’re not good at it yet, maybe you’ll get better with practice, or you won’t.

You get a new story to tell. A new memory to feel. A new state of suspension when you don’t know what’s going to happen, maybe nothing, maybe everything, maybe something in between.

That’s if you choose to live in hope. You don’t have to. There’s no shame in choosing not to. Change can be terrifying, paralysing. It’s never really a two person journey. It’s always just you.

So you send the email. Buy the shares. Pack the bag. Make the trip.

Then, it’s time to hope. Sometimes it’s fun, a joyful anticipation, ‘I hope my sports team wins!’ when they’re minor premiers and the opposition has an injured MVP.

‘I hope I get a good Christmas present!’ when you saw it being gift wrapped.

But sometimes hope can feel fucking awful.

‘I hope you’ll take a chance on me,’ when you don’t know where you stand.

‘I hope I’m at my best, and my best is good enough,’ when you’re asking someone to pick you.

‘I hope the operation goes well,’ when something is genuinely life and death. ‘I hope the test results are good.’ ‘I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.’

So, the alternatives. Stay home. Choose early, and settle. 9 to 5 it, at the same place, forever. Visit the same holiday destinations, with the same people, and have the same conversations. Stay safe. There’s no shame in being safe.

It’s entirely possible to keep taking chances that never pay off – it must be. But just one decision can make life look entirely different.

So maybe we just have to trust it, until it’s time to stop. Maybe we just have to decide that we’re not going to break, and not going to worry, and that it really can be enough.

Or we can choose the alternative. But what’s the alternative?

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