"The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I long to be. Because of all I may become, I will close my eyes and leap." --Mary Anne Radmacher
Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. The above bit of wisdom I read, of all things, on a greeting card in a drugstore in Omaha, Nebraska. I remember that I gasped when I saw it. It spoke—no, shouted out—to me almost as if it had been written specifically for me alone and me alone. I snatched it up from the card rack (sending a dozen other cards cascading to the floor in my excitement) and bought it immediately. I brought it home and propped it on my desk. Ever since, it’s resided in my office, a daily reminder of the change I so desperately want to make.
But in the year that has passed—particularly the last six months—though I’ve made some positive steps towards moving forward, I’ve frequently found myself bogged down by a weird sort of torpor that threatens any forward progress at all. Usually, that inertia centers on thoughts that include (but aren’t limited to) “Well, its not that bad.” Or, “Why do I deserve better?” Or even, “What if I’m wrong? What if it’s a mistake??”
But all those thoughts (and their related meaner-spirited siblings like: “I can’t do it”, “What’s wrong with me?” and “Why can’t I just be okay with this?”) are really rooted in one thing: Fear. And I suspect that fear is what holds most people back from making the decisions they truly need to make to live full and fulfilled lives.
The inspirational quote above addresses that quite nicely—shame on me for taking so long to recognize it. “The jump is so frightening…” she begins. Well, yeah! You’re standing on the edge of a precipice—it’s not a really wide gap in the earth. Maybe 6 or 8 feet. You’re on fairly solid ground. Both feet are planted. You’re safe. But you look around and where you’re standing is barren, a few dried husks of tumbleweeds, lots of rocks and some dust. Or maybe you’re side of the precipice isn’t even that bad—there’s grass (albeit sort of dry and unwelcoming), maybe there’s a few thin trees. There might even be a bench to sit on (but watch out for those splinters!)
So you stand on your side of the precipice, shade your eyes with your hand, and look across longingly. After all, it’s not that far of a leap. You could do it…6 or 8 feet. Just take a running start…
But… while you can see that the other side is lush and green, with full trees dotting the landscape and—wait, is that silver reflection a stream?—you don’t really know if it will be any better over there than it is over here. You think it probably will be. You want to believe that it is. But the fact is, you don’t really know.
What you do know is that you are safe on your own side of the precipice, the side you’re already familiar with, the side where you know what areas to avoid because there are snakes curled up under rocks. You know that if you wait long enough eventually it will rain and you’ll get the water you need then. You know that while it may not be the best side, it is your side—and do you really want to give that up for the other side of the precipice that has no guarantees? The side that looks good but might be hiding a nest of scorpions under a rose bush? But underneath it all, you’re really just scared. What if you take that leap, but miss your footing on the other side? You slip down the side of the cliff, struggling to find purchase, hands bleeding, nails peeling back as you grab desperately for a root or rock or something to hold onto. But you fall anyway…
So you stand, undecided, scared, worried about the drop. The longer you stand there, the more you tell yourself that it’s not that bad on your side. Eventually you shrug your shoulders, stop looking at the other side of the precipice and decide to make your life where you already are. But you still glance over to the other side from time to time over the years and imagine what might have been, had you only had the courage to make the leap.
No great reward ever came without great change—and great risk. We’ve all heard the stories of people who’ve put everything on the line and five years later are happier and more fulfilled than ever. The corporate exec who leaves a solid six-figure income (and grueling, exhausting job) behind to pursue a dream of starting her own firm—and somehow, against the odds, succeeds. Or the work-a-day Joe who recognizes an amazing opportunity and borrows against his 401K to invest…and it works out beyond his wildest dreams. Or the man or woman who longs desperately to start over, get a fresh start in another place and decides to just do it—and makes an unimaginably happy life in a new location. We probably all have friends who’ve been through such a transition.
And I could come up with an equal number of examples of where taking a risk turned out to be the worst possible decision that person could have made….but I won’t go there, because that’s exactly the kind of thinking that paralyzes me—much like the person standing on the edge of the precipice and pictures themselves falling into the bottomless gap between the two places. If you dwell on the negative, you psych yourself out and can’t move forward. And that’s true in everything—the big meeting, the big game, the big speech, the big performance.
So knowing that the potential reward is so great, why am I so freaking scared? Why is anyone scared when they are making a life-altering decision? It’s because as human beings, most of us seek safety and reassurance. Very few of us are risk-takers. And that’s okay. I’m not criticizing those who prefer the safe side of the precipice to the unknown landing on the other side. There’s a lot to be said for security and familiarity. And the comfort of knowing which rocks to avoid, lest a snake chomps down on your ankle.
But there is also a lot to be said for stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a chance. One way or the other, it will work out. Things always do—even if they’re not in the way you hoped or even imagined. And that’s where I am now. Because when I picture staying on this side of the precipice for another year or five years or a lifetime, my heart sinks. And really, when it comes down to it, I want my heart to soar.
So because of all I may become, I will close my eyes and leap—and hope that wherever I land, I will find what I’m looking for there.
**Mary Anne Radmacher, I discovered via Google search (gotta love google) is a writer/artist in Oregon. I love her attitude about life/love/finding your passion. She articulates how I feel, but have trouble discerning. Check out her page at http://www.maryanneradmacher.com/about.php.