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Monday Moment: Grasping Chance Opportunities

Emma Grey

I was having dinner on Friday night with two 14-year-olds before we went to the school musical. I asked my daughter’s friend if she had any idea what she might like to do after school and she said, very decisively, “journalism”.

By chance, two tables up in the restaurant was my good friend Amanda Whitley—founder, of course, of HerCanberra. On our way out, I introduced the two of them and, as a result, Amanda is kindly going to host Isabelle in the HerCanberra office for a day, to look behind the scenes at some journalism in action.

It got me thinking about chance opportunities. All the times we say things like:

  • I should go over and speak to her… but I’m shy
  • Perhaps I could apply for that job… but I can only answer five of the six criteria
  • I want to put my hand up and say something… but who would want to hear me
  • Maybe I could reach out to so-and-so… but, but, but

When we were in London for three months in 2011, we lived in an apartment above comedian Alexei Sayle. For most of that time, we didn’t cotton on about the celebrity in our midst—despite his very recognisable face and the fact that “Sayle” was written against the doorbell for their apartment number.

On the morning we left, I remember us milling about on the ground floor, waiting for the cab with all our luggage. For the first time in three months, Alexei did something more than politely nod hello. 

Him: “You’re leaving?”

Me: “Yes, time to go home.”
Silence.
Silence.
Silence.
Me: “I just want to say, we love your work!”

Him: “Thank you!”

My teenagers are mortified to this day that when I finally got the courage to say something, I went the predictable ‘fan girl’ and said the most un-original thing anyone could articulate. But I was so glad I did. This guy had been in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Doctor Who and the Young Ones. Not saying something would have been weirder than my awkward “yay!”

There are numerous other opportunities that I remember letting go. Times when I might have changed my life, in a little or a big way, had I said or done something in the moment.

The outcomes we hope for need not be off-the-scale spectacular to make a big difference in our lives. One of the best “risks” I’ve taken was to approach my uni professor in a library cafe, twenty years on, and thank him for red-penning a fourth-year South African History essay so extensively. He met with me to explain how to write in plain English — and I credit that meeting with setting my writing career in train.

I haven’t seen the movie, We Bought a Zoo, but I love this quote from it:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

I’d edit that a bit. Sometimes nothing will come of it. But often something will, and we’ll never know what, or how, unless we try.

Image of Life begins at the end of your comfort zone sign from shutterstock.com.

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Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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