“Don’t smoke.” “Don’t do drugs.” “No gambling.” “Stay in school.”
These are just some of the things that people who are fortunate enough to have caring families have heard time and time again. I’m thankful to say that I’m one of these people.
I am, however, guilty of completely disregarding one of the four pieces of advice listed above despite the countless warnings and constant reminders from my two loving parents.
I have a confession to make.
I am a gambler—a proud one, too.
Before you judge me, I don’t spend my nights placing bets on ludicrous card games or even on my favorite basketball teams. I don’t play the slots, nor do I “scratch to win.” Those are child’s play.
I play an entirely different game on the grandest stage of all—and I play to win.
The funny thing is that this game was never really that appealing to me until recently, yet I still consider it to be a gargantuan part of who I am today. In fact, I was quite satisfied with my life just two years ago. I was a consistent honor student, I had an amazing group of friends, and I had the luxury of time to just relax and enjoy the numerous blessings endowed upon me. I was living a perfectly comfortable life—and that was the problem.
During one of the countless existential crises that I—to this day—continue to experience, I found myself realizing that my life lacked excitement. I didn’t do anything other than study, bum around, and occasionally play basketball. I was a member of merely one club that, quite frankly, I only joined to qualify for school honors. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and change that. Being the “nerd” that I am, I felt like my high school was the perfect avenue to execute this change.
I would say that my gambling career started in the beginning of my junior year. I actively sought out opportunities that would allow me to have a more exciting life in whichever way possible. Starting small, I took chances and applied for a few school clubs that actually interested me as opposed to those that would simply grant me an “easy A.” Although it may seem petty to some, I made it a point to consciously put myself out there into the unfamiliar waters and dive into its depths. I’m not going to lie—it frightened me. This was the first time I truly stepped outside my comfort zone and gave something new a shot. All I could do was hope for the best, take a chance, and gamble.
Unaccustomed to change, I didn’t really know what to expect. What I did know was the incredibly real possibility that I would be turned down. I was very much acquainted with the fears of failure and rejection—the fears that kept me fettered for all these years. These were the fears that disconcerted me and undoubtedly caused much trepidation. These were the fears I was bracing myself for.
However, with luck apparently on my side, I was accepted to most of the clubs that I signed up for. I was officially a writer for our school’s official publication, a member of the Red Cross Youth Council, and a member of our school’s fundraising committee—a huge difference from simply being a silent member of a single group in my previous year. I was definitely satisfied, but you know what they say: “be careful what you wish for.”
Within the next few weeks, I was invited to a number of other groups within the school. And, before I knew it, I was an active member of 8 different organizations—and I loved all of them. I was always busy with something interesting and wholesome, yet I certainly had to sacrifice precious hours of sleep and relaxation from time to time. Nevertheless, I was happy.
Looking back, junior year was by far the most vivid and memorable of my entire school life, but would not have been anywhere near as exciting if I hadn’t taken initiative to make it so. If only I learned how to gamble sooner.
I realize now that perhaps the reason why I hadn’t taken more chances prior to last year was that I was blinded by the sole existence of the losing end that presents itself with every new opportunity. I perceived life to be a game of chance—one in which the chances of winning were a million to one.
In most of these games, the odds are stacked against us. These games are designed to deceive us with the false pretence that the slightest chance of winning outweighs the overwhelming chance of losing. In this case, gambling just isn’t worth it.
But life is not simply a game of chance. Indeed, the horrifying possibilities of failure, rejection, and embarrassment will forever exist, but there’s one thing that makes life different from these games: We have the luxury of learning from our mistakes and emerging better than before. Unlike in poker or black jack, we have the ability to come out as winners every time we take chances. Even in the event of failure, there is still a consolation prize that must not be overlooked: Failing grants us the opportunity to assess how much something really means to us. Look at it this way: it’s either we get what we initially wanted, or we end up finding out whether something is worth gambling for again. Do we really ever lose?
We can always walk out as winners—one way or the other. It’s all just a matter of perspective.
With senior year just around the corner, I can honestly say that I’m thankful that I was able to come to terms with the nature of taking chances and stepping outside of my comfort zone. As this is going to be my last year in high school, I’m definitely planning on making it one for the ages.
I’m going all in this time. What’s stopping you?
If you happen to find yourself still hesitant to gamble and take chances this year, just remember what NHL Legend Wayne Gretzky once said,
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Joshua Lim is a Canadian-Chinese-Filipino student at Xavier School in the Philippines. He’s currently starting his last year in high school, and is excited to make the most out of all the opportunities presented to him. During his free time, he likes playing basketball and hanging-out with his friends.