Risk and reward.

I’m not a gambler. I don’t buy lottery tickets, I’ve never played blackjack, and I don’t tinker with risky investments. There’s just no great thrill in it for me, no adrenaline rush or sweaty palms or child-like excitement. It’s not really that I have some great fear of the loss, although I’m sure that’s a factor. It’s more about my need to intellectualize (okay, over-intellectualize) the decision-making process. I just can’t suspend my grasp on reality long enough to believe that I might have that winning lotto ticket. Let’s face it, I know the odds. As a result, when tasked with picking a way forward in a given situation — whether I’m deciding what to order for dinner or selecting the right paint color for the walls — more often than not, I will take what I perceive to be the safer route. The beigey-gold is fine, thanks.

So, last fall, when my wife started talking about going back to school, I focused on the risk. She’d waged war on addiction and seemed to be in a good place, her health was the best it had been in some time, and she enjoyed the benefits that come with a lack of employment. Who would risk that? It made no sense that she’d want to put it all on the line, but that’s because I was focused on the risk when she could only think of the reward.

After some healthy deliberation and a little concession, she enrolled. At first, it would only be a nine-month program and — this was the part of her argument that swayed me — we’d have an agreement in place if any of her hard-fought accomplishments (sobriety, health, etc.) started to go south. It’d be fine, she assured me. She was ready.

I have to tell you, I believed the worst. I thought it was a terrible decision that would end badly. I knew it was important to her and I knew I had to honor that, but I thought she was wrong. Maybe, disastrously wrong. So, I put up walls and I braced myself for what I felt certain we’d soon regret. I was ready, too.

Part of me thought (or was that hope?) that she would want to quit after the first week. Certainly, the novelty would wear off or she’d realize that the risk was too great. It’d be an expensive mistake, sure, but one that we could recover from. After the first week went off without a hitch, I assumed that maybe a quarter would be enough. But she persisted. Then, when she was diagnosed with Melanoma (Stage 1, successfully removed) at the end of the second quarter, I was sure it was some sort of sign that we’d bet too much, but she was sure that she could still do it. She was so close and it would all be fine, she insisted. Trust, believe.

She finished her classes this week, ended her practicum, took her final final, and gave her big presentation. In February, she’ll wear a robe and Honors cords to receive written verification of her great accomplishment. I’m so proud of her, not just for completing the task and acing her classes, but for having the strength of spirit to acknowledge the risk, deal with the speed bumps, and still manage to look forward with hope. That says a lot about the person she is and the person she’s become.

Oh, and we’re talking about changing the paint color on the walls at home, too. The beigey-gold was nice for a spell, but it’s time for something new.

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