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November 2, 2013

On the Go: Don't be afraid of the 'what ifs'

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The Daily Star

---- — You’ve heard all the sayings, from “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” or “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” to “just do it.” 

Taking a chance, making a change and reacting to chaos are the roots of what it means to exist. Change is a constant force hurtling through life even at the slowest moments. How do we begin to fathom something as essential as change? Chaos and change are the mind-set of the universe. As members of the intergalactic community, we have learned to try to cope with, cultivate and/or harness these forces. We’ve learned about cyclic changes and norms. We acknowledge and fight chaos. 

We’ve learned to accept the need to modify our clothing choices to match the seasons. Yet we wake up each morning and make our beds. From the most basic to life-altering, our responses to change, choice and chaos comprise our whole existence.   

Some people believe change has to be to or for something in particular. Sometimes people seek change simply for the change itself. On dictionary.com, I found 34 definitions of “change.” If a change is sought because of discontent with the present state of things, the value of the experience could be primarily derived from the simple act of changing and challenging the status quo. At least you’d be trying. 

When considering a split from conformity, some people panic. I’d advise people to ditch the existential “they,” who hold so much power and sway.

Then there’s that little thorn we call practicality. Sure, it’s nice to have money in the bank and a fancy job title. And maybe jumping on a plane would throw a wrench in your plans. But if you died tomorrow, which would you regret not doing?

You’re standing on the precipice or in front of the ticket window. It’s your choice to leap or not. You might fall. You might fly. Do you leap? Or do you get away from the edge? There’s no going back from a leap; this you know. And no one warns you when the butterfly effect is happening; when every breath you take shapes your future. This choice could be a turning point with a decisive before and after.

Every cautious neuron in your brain is screaming at you. Don’t get too upset with those little guys. They’re just doing their job. There’s a comfort in the ruts that can’t be ignored. But what if this less-traveled path makes all the difference? It’s a gamble, some would say foolish, to place a bet when you don’t have all the cards. But there’ll be statistics and resistance to fight you at any and every turn. Just keep rolling with the punches and seizing the moments. 

What’s next? When the adrenaline fades and you’ve passed the point of no return? Keep your expectations elastic. Maybe the grass doesn’t need to be perfect or greener. Maybe all you needed was a different pasture. There’ll always be unknowns and uncertainties. No matter the chances you take or the choices you make there’ll be what-ifs. I believe the only finality is death. 

So make decisions, change your mind, come back home, and leave again. You’ll be OK as long as you never stop looking for happiness.   

I’m a bit of an insomniac. During the summer I let my semblance of a sleep schedule dissolve and I’ll routinely still be up at four in the morning. At four, there isn’t too much to do. As the coolest point of a summer night I sometimes open my window and watch the world sleep. Every once in a while, headlights break the quiet and a car drives past. In this void between late night and early morning, I wonder about the driver. I think we’re all 4 a.m. drivers at one time or another; driving down an unfamiliar road. But we keep driving. Always in search of our destination.

Katherine Ahearn is a junior at Unatego Junior-Senior High School. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk