Two Words: Take Chances

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by Travis Richardson

 Back in the fall of 2009 I was blindsided by a divorce. I won’t go into details, but I lost a lot of opportunities when I took up with my ex years earlier and it felt like those sacrifices were a total waste. The separation also happened just a few days before school was starting at my job. I let my office and supervisors know about what was happening, but I went to work everyday, getting work done without bringing too much personal baggage with me.

On the day of our new student orientation I came in extra early and went through the routine of welcoming new students, giving a happy, welcoming smile. Towards the end of the morning orientation, current students leaders said a few words to the incoming and tell them about different organizations and opportunities. One of the speakers was Andrew Barnes, a PhD candidate in Health Policy and Management. (He was writing his thesis on a certain sociological aspects of alcohol consumption,I believe.) I was halfheartedly listening when he told the students that they should make the most of their time at UCLA and take chances. In a self-effacing style, he said by putting himself out there and taking chances he had traveled to Europe for free, attended several conferences and rubbed shoulders with people out of his league. (I’m paraphrasing as best I can remember.) It was a short, but direct talk and the line “take chances” reverberated through my head. I wrote the line down and kept it at my desk for a while.  

I moved from my East LA apartment to a student section of Westwood Village a few weeks later. This allowed me to walk to work instead of drive. For several months I started seeing a therapist to get my noggin sorted out. The idea in the sessions was not to just talk, but to change. I started practicing yoga during lunch which started out as pain and frustration, but grew into relaxation. I got back into dating and even for a short time ran a Meetup group for 30 something singles. I met a woman who was very different than the other women that I typically dated. (No, we didn’t connect on that Meetup group.) My writing volume increased as I got more involved with writing and movie making groups. I got a gig as a reporter and went to Park City to cover the Slamdance Film Festival. With my then girlfriend and now wife, we traveled to Europe and later drove across the country and back. I started getting stories published for the first time and then a couple of novellas followed. To cap it all off, this year I’ve become a father – something that would not have happened pre-divorce. 

Here is a video of our trip from Santa Monica to Florida and back.

While I’m not saying that those two words were the catalyst that started the change, it was definitely what I need to hear at that time and they emboldened my resolve. Although I’ve taken some chances, I feel there are a lot more opportunities where I haven’t. (See last month’s article on my lack of promotion.) So I’ll need to remember the take chances mantra. I never told Andrew about the effect he had on an administrative employee at UCLA. Perhaps I will with this post.

Sometimes the words we say can have a lasting effect… and sometimes on an unintended audience. Any words or moments that altered your life?  

 *********

Travis Richardson has been a finalist for the Macavity short story award in 2014 and 2015 as well as the Anthony short story award in 2014. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in crime fiction publications such as Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, and All Due Respect. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime Los Angeles newsletter Ransom Notes, reviews Anton Chekhov short stories at  http://www.chekhovshorts.com,
and sometimes shoots a short movie. His novella, KEEPING THE RECORD, concerns a disgraced baseball player who will do anything to keep his tainted home run record. “Quack and Dwight” is his latest short story and can be found in the Anthology JEWISH NOIR.  www.tsrichardson.com 

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10 Responses to Two Words: Take Chances

  1. This was interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Doris says:

    Wonderful Travis. In the early part of my career in corrections one elderly woman’s advice stuck with me. “Keep talking, you never know when something you say may make all the difference in someone’s life”. How correct she was.

    I agree, take chances. The worst that can happen, you don’t reach the lofty goal, but the journey, priceless. I am so thrilled you took the chance and here’s to continuing that journey, Thank you for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was really heartfelt and inspiring, Travis. Thanks for sharing something so personal.

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  4. Nancy Jardine says:

    I think that taking chances gets more important for me as I get older, Travis. So it’s not only important for the younger folks- though some results can be positively formative when they happen at a younger age. I wouldn’t want to hear that anyone had negative results from taking reckless chances but ones done after some thoughtful deliberation can be very rewarding, as they have been for you. Your little one will have changed your life and lifestyle a lot, but babies can be such fun. My grandson, now 20 months, is saying some hilarious things and can be so cute- as well as cheeky.

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  5. Mike Staton says:

    Very revealing, courageous post, Travis. Or: Out of the ashes of our mistakes rises a Phoenix carrying better tomorrows. I agree… we have to keep taking chances, even when we get into our 60s and want to settle into our comfy couch and watch International House Hunters (that’s another story).

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  6. I like Mike’s thoughts that parallel yours–take chances and ashes to Phoenix, painful past to better tomorrows. I’ve traveled that road of divorce as well as had a broken engagement — heartbreak for sure! But, from that heartache have come new opportunities, new growth, and horizons I’d never had experienced if not for going through that heartache and breakup. May we all rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of our disappointment and heartbreak! Thanks for sharing such a personal and painful example, Travis — very encouraging!!

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  7. Neva Bodin says:

    Great post to help us think and renew our courage! If we have no change, we do not grow, and change is often painful. And we can sometimes ask ourselves, did we make a mistake or did we just learn a new way what not to do? Good for you and I’m sure that baby will make changes in your lives as you “do changes” on that little sweetheart. Congrats on your successes!

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  8. Great post Travis, and wonderful that you let those words hound you until you did something about it. You asked about moments or words that may have changed our lives. I was going through a heartbreaking divorce and thought I couldn’t go on. After all, I had two small chlldren to raise. I had an appointment with my doctor and I began crying. He took me by the shoulders, lifted my chin, and told me he had never met anyone as strong as I. I would make it. During that same time I had a work meeting with my fellow colleagues. I didn’t feel much like partying but since I had to make a presentation, I went. After dinner and a drink, one of my colleagues I knew only slightly asked me to dance. He took my hand, wrapped his arms around me and hugged me while we swayed on the dance floor. I never want you to forget that you are a beautiful person, a wonderful mother, and a person who is going places. You don’t need anyone – you are strong. How lucky I was to have people who believed in me and knew just the right things to say. It brought me through through the stom.

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  9. Joe Stephens says:

    I’m glad you found happiness after your divorce. The main reason you did, I would guess, is because you did indeed take chances. By putting yourself in those new situations and by allowing yourself to be happy (that’s such a challenge sometimes) you made a great new life for yourself. Congratulations.

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  10. S J Brown says:

    Taking chances has really been a big part of my life the last the last few decades. There are just so many things I would never have seen or done if I didn’t take chances. I think every now and then everyone needs to take a deep breath and just go for it.

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