There are people who jump off cliffs. Literal ones. Really big, tall cliffs into rock (and possibly shark) infested waters. Or there are people who careen down the Matterhorn in flying squirrel suits or tie heavy pieces of elastic to their ankles and jump from bridges. And let us not forget the people who leap from moving aircraft with 30 pounds of nylon fabric keeping them from an intimate and precipitous meeting with the ground.
And then there are people who jump off metaphoric cliffs. These are the kind who walk into the airport and announce that they’ll buy a ticket for the next plane leaving the tarmac. Or who decide that a career in nursing doesn’t do it for them, and now they want to learn how to use a loom (or vice versa).
I don’t typically think of myself as either of that sort. I certainly have never sought any activity that puts me any more subject to the whims of gravity and terminal velocity than falling off the treadmill would. And I’ve never hopped into a stranger’s car on a whim for an epic road trip to Vegas.
But a few times in my life, I have leapt. I leapt to college – moneyless - with no thought other than a desperate need to create an existence for myself where moneyless could be a thing of the past. I leapt to Europe, moving my husband and five-year-old there, because I had never had that sort of adventure before and I couldn’t stand the thought of never having one. And last year I leapt again in quitting my high-paying health-care director job to take a part-time position so I could start my own company.
Why? Where do these compulsions come from?
I believe that there is a certain kind of leap (both of the metaphoric and literal type) that has to do with a need for adrenaline, but that’s not me. I get adrenaline rushes when a new episode of Divine Design is on, I don’t need anything headier than that.
Mine comes from impasse. All of them have. Mine come from feeling like the road that I am on simply does not lead anywhere I want to go, and perhaps in some cases a lurking dread that it goes nowhere at all. It has each time involved an inner self spinning in circles looking for an alternate trail, track or footpath that can shift my trajectory towards brighter vistas. Or greener pastures. Or over the rainbow. If I actually reach that somewhat desperate point I’m typically pretty flexible about the destination. But by the time I’ve gotten there, I can’t find the linear path or trail to lead me from point A to point B.
And so…a leap. The kind that some people would find startling. “You’re moving where?” or, “You’re quitting why?” (Although I still don’t think they rank with jumping out of planes.)
But I do believe that each of us has one day stood in a place where we could not see our own shadow any longer and wondered what it would take to create enough light to outline it clearly again. And I believe that in those times we realize that the illumination we seek comes from daring and from courage, and cannot be found in complacency or habit. These are the moments where we leave the bad relationship, quit the dead-end job, take the once-in-a-lifetime vacation, abandon the unhealthy lifestyle, lop off the hair, get the tattoo, say yes to the smoky-eyed man at the library, or undertake the heart-stopping adventure. Small or large they are powerful-legged leaps to that which is new and unknowable. And in the catch of breath when we realize that we can’t quite see our landing point, our shadows greet us again. Waving. Exhilarated
Lori, speech pathologist, writer, and business owner, blogs home-family-working-mom drama at In Pursuit of Martha Points.
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