Adventures in the wild, wild West (Side)

young scared woman in bed

Have you taken a risk and were surprised by the outcome?

Not anything crazy, but definitely an outside-your-wheelhouse moment?

It takes a lot of nerve to be vulnerable and put yourself out there. Who knows what could happen? It feels scary, but even if something goes haywire, you will still wake up tomorrow. The sun will still rise and the Earth will continue to spin.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid of the unknown, so you imagine a million what-if scenarios that may never come to pass. You’re afraid of failure and that relentless voice inside that says, “I told you so.” You’re afraid of giving up the devil you know for the one you don’t.

And staying in your safe zone has its benefits. You get a predictable (often boring) outcome. You’re reasonably safe from failure. You don’t have to deal with naysayers. So you hunker down and tell yourself you’re doing the right thing.

Not so fast.

It turns out that smart risks can be richly rewarding. You never know what you’ll discover along the way.

When people find out I bike to work through the city’s Big Bad West Side, they look at me like I have three feet sticking out of my head. Although my route is the road less traveled, drivers who bypass the city’s West Side every day are missing an eye-opening experience.

Take “K-Town,” for example. The 16-block area of North Lawndale is known for its streets that start with “K,” and it gets a bad rap for crime. But the flip side is that part of K-Town is on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic district features hidden treasures, including stunning commercial and residential architecture.

If flying buttresses, towering greystones and gleaming gargoyles aren’t your thing, maybe you’d prefer exquisite flowers, rare tropical plants and awe-inspiring trees. You’ll find this eye candy at the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest and most impressive conservatories in the United States. It’s open year-round, and while admission is free, you won’t leave without putting something in the till.

Chicago Blackhawks fans probably know about Johnny’s IceHouse West, because it’s the team’s state-of-the-art practice venue. Adult and children’s leagues play there, too. The rink also offers ice skating lessons. I used to think the rink was a beer distributor, thanks to Icehouse from Miller Brewing Co. Tommy Hawk on the side of the building should have been a dead giveaway, but I didn’t notice that on my early commutes to work.

Two weeks ago, the kindness of strangers in the Not So Great part of town totally saved my rump. Leaving work, I faced such a nasty headwind, I felt like one of those cartoon characters running in place. It was mind-blowingly exhausting. Halfway home, I gave up and jumped on a bus.

The only problem was I couldn’t figure out how to work the contraption you’re supposed to place your bike into on the front of the bus. The impatient driver was yelling and pointing, but I couldn’t hear a word he said or understand his confusing hand signals. Maybe it had something to do with the wind roaring in my ears or the honking, cursing motorists stuck behind the diesel-belching beast.

A man waiting for another bus saw me struggling and took pity on me. He lifted my bike up onto the front rack, secured the measly looking tire-holder and sent me on my way. I thanked him profusely, but it felt inadequate. I’m not sure what I would have done had he not been there. The same thing happened when I got off the bus. I tried to wrestle my 50-pound steel Schwinn free without success. Yet another stranger came up and helped me.

See, there’s more to the West Side than you thought, so why not try it? Isn’t it better to go through life enjoying the ride rather than having a so-so experience and regretting what you didn’t do?

It’s not easy to conquer your fears. But envision what could happen if you let go and bust out of your rut every now and then. You might experience life. You might realize your dreams. You might even have fun along the way.

Now, if I could only overcome the terror of singing on open-mic night …

Have you taken a smart risk and done something that scared you? What convinced you to take the plunge? Were you successful? Share your story in the comments below.

 

About Dawn

Dawn is the senior editor at The Simons Group. As a grammar queen, she'd rather lose her wallet than misplace an apostrophe. Fellow copy ninjas unite -- you have an ally.

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