I am not a risk-taker.

Perhaps that’s an odd thing to say given I moved across the country to pursue my education. I moved again to be with my girlfriend, 500 miles from my friends and found family. I have moved a third time to be at a graduate program that challenges me.

All of my risks are calculated to death. Would it make sense financially? Are my opportunities better? Would I be happier? How will this help me in the future? Even after all of this, I still feel regret and ask myself, was it worth it?

Most the time the answer to those questions are all positive. Sometimes it still doesn’t feel that way. I’ll look back at some point and be able to joyfully say yes it was. At the moment though, that’s not the case.

I love my girlfriend, and I can’t wait to marry her someday when I’m no longer in school. We have serious conversations a lot, about our life together, about our pasts and future. We’ll shy away from these conversations at first, all couples do. But at some point, she breaks the ice of the subject and we lay out our feelings about that topic.

She pointed out that I am not a risk-taker. And I know I am not. I get wrapped up in my head, I think more than I actually do. So I get stuck.

This all stems from my risk calculation, particularly when it comes to finances.

I’ve only had one job that made me feel financially stable. I haven’t been able to get back to that point since I left for undergrad. I’ve moved from one low-paying job after another, never feeling enough financial stability to feel like I could take risks. A huge part of this has to do with being independent.

I have always prided myself in being financially independent even if that means forgoing an external social life. I found it easier to give up experiences so I could have the extra money in my savings.  2019 has been the first year that I am not making money. This will be the first time since my first job at 16 that I have spent at least half the year unemployed – if not the full year.

Being unemployed blows. I am lucky I have my girlfriend who understands that finding a good job that also wants me takes time. She knows that spending so much time in our house, in a new city, was hard on me. I spent a few months of the summer working for a car auction company. I made more working retail than I did at this job, so much so I was tempted to go back to retail and deal with customers again.

With the school year started, I spend my days in my apartment doing homework, writing, watching YouTube, and playing video games. Three evenings a week I’m in class.

That is my schedule.

She said I should take risks. I am in the perfect position to do this because if things don’t work out, I have her and my parents to fall back on. And that completely shatters my independence.

I have never liked the idea of relying on other people. More often than not, I am disappointed by them. Perhaps my expectations are too high, or maybe I’m bad at choosing reliable people. But I know that my girlfriend and my parents are reliable. It comes down to being comfortable with asking for help, and feeling like I can take risks.

I want to.

But I am so afraid.

That is harder to get over than to admit. And it’s something that I’m not sure what to do about.

Around the Clock

Eighteen years ago my clock-radio alarm went off. Music played while I waited to hear if my mom was up yet. The morning talk show on my favorite radio station came on.  Our house was quiet except for my radio.

It was the first full week of fifth grade.

One of the DJs said a plane crashed into a building. They weren’t sure what was happening, but a plane crashed as far as the reports told them.

I got up and stumbled into my mom’s room. She was diagonal across her bed, the dog taking up his own large corner. I told her to turn on the TV, a plane crashed into a building.  She gestured for me to turn it on and found her glasses on the nightstand. The CRT TV started to warm up, the signal got steady as I adjusted the volume knob when the static grew louder.

The first tower smoked, the black smudgy line drifted across the city. We listened as the announcers tried to figure out what was happening, what had happened. Our dog whined so my mom headed to let him out.

Another plane entered the frame.

I yelled for my mom from the stairs. A plane crashed into the building. She said she knew, and I said, no another one. It hit the other one.

We watched from 3,000 miles away in our Seattle suburb. The falling debris, the flames, the blown-out windows. Sometimes the cameras zoomed in and you could see people in the openings, the people falling because it seemed easier to choose their own end.

An hour before school the second tower slid into the growing cloud that hung low in New York City. Peter Jennings continued to speak, his voice calm.

I packed my books and binder, added fruit snacks to my lunch box while eating my peanut butter toast.

At school, Ms. R paced around more than usual, drank her coffee with shakier hands. She sometimes went to the door and spoke to someone, one of the other staff members, a classroom aid. Ms. R asked if we wanted to talk about it if we knew what happened this morning. Instead of the spelling lesson we discussed everything we witnessed. The ones that didn’t see anything asked questions that Ms. R couldn’t answer. She assured us that we were safe here and that we could talk to someone if we needed to.

The news still played after school. Soap operas were put off. The talk shows were canceled. Peter Jennings sat with his suit jacket off, his sleeves rolled up.

Around the clock coverage of New York City in the search for survivors, turned into the recovery efforts, turned into the cleanup. The coverage turned to the war, into the soldiers killed every day. Around the clock, we heard about the weapons, and the evil far away. Commercials advertised Freedom Fries and every house in our neighborhood donned a flag.

The year after became two, became five, became ten. Now eighteen.

Around the clock we hear about lies, about scandals, about midnight tweets that dictate policy. People are told to fear the other, that if they don’t look or sound like you, they shouldn’t be here.

Somewhere a kid has started fifth grade, waking up to their phone’s alarm.