Before I explain the most recent and slightly insane set of decisions I’ve made in my life, I want everyone to first imagine what it feels like to jump.
I’m from the country(ish) part of Pennsylvania, so growing up we all did a lot of jumping. School nights and weekends were spent seeking that small-town high that can only come from seemingly simple and invigorating adventures of the heart. We jumped off boulders, hillside cliffs, rocky waterfalls and ropes dangling from the tallest trees we could find at the local lake. The state park rangers would cut down the ropes time and time again, but someone always tied them back up.
I guess there’s something about free falling that’s just too irresistible to let anyone take from you.
There’s always that first moment beforehand too that temporarily paralyzes you. You stand there digging your toes into the dirt and stone, and wrapping your hands tightly around the rope like its scratchy texture will somehow bring you comfort. You feel its knots within your fingers, like lifelines you’re not sure if you’re strong enough to secure. You hear your friends cheer from below, and for a second you feel your bravery strengthen. But then you look down.
It seems so far. You realize that if you let go too soon or too late you’ll crash into the shallow rocks. You could break your neck, or get a few bruises on your elbows. You could lose everything or nothing at all. Sometimes that’s the worst part too, you’re not sure just how hurt you’ll be if you make a mistake. That’s how fear traps us, in irrational and rational versions of situations where the lines blur too closely to decipher the truth.
Those few moments aren’t the ones you remember though. It’s what happens next, after you wind up, run like crazy and plunge yourself into the unknown.
It’s when you let go, and you fall through the air not knowing with any certainty what will become of you. For one brief, and fleeting moment you are infinitely free. That is why we jump in life. Feet on the ground could never on its most incredible and remarkable day offer us close to the ecstasy of free falling.
In life, we too often walk away from the opportunities to jump. We stand at the top of the cliff, facing our dreams and aspirations right in front of us. They’re close enough to reach out and touch. They’re water just waiting to immerse us in the greatness we have always sought. But alongside those dreams are also our fears of crashing, and that perplexing moment of free fall when you haven’t the slightest clue what is going to happen to you. Facing those realities is terrifying, and too often we make as many excuses as we can not to jump.
A few months ago I jumped into the water, and decided to move to New York City without a plan.
I quit my job in Philadelphia, an amazing job with the kind of environment people dream of, and announced that my boyfriend and I would be moving to the big apple. I’ll spare you all of the details, but essentially in a few weeks time I had to find a new job and a place in New York City. We needed to leave our Philly friends and family, pack up the apartment and completely flip our lives upside down for something we’d both always said we’d do. I entered that infinite moment of free fall with no concept of what the future would hold.
And trust me, some people thought I was a little crazy…
“What are you going to do in New York City, like for work?” — Er, not sure.
“Where are you going to live?” — Well, haven’t figured that out just yet.
“Do you even know how to get around?” — Kind of? I guess I have to sell my car right?
To be fair, I had spent a lot of time standing there with the rope in my hand throughout my life, trying to work out every detail I needed to get the courage to make that jump one day. It lived in the back of my head for many years, an undeveloped plan I couldn’t bring to fruition. I even tried on-and-off without success to pull everything needed into a perfect plan, and that left me unsuccessful and feeling defeated, so I backed away. I kept holding the rope, and it wasn’t until I chose to let go and entered the free fall that everything came together.
I’m a planner. I have always had my next steps mapped out in my head. I had a college job before I got to college. I had a post-grad job lined up long before I was a grad, and then another lined up in the meantime. I did this for everything. I needed that cushioned landing any time I was going to make a big change, and sometimes the lack of that cushion has kept me from taking the chances I knew deep down that I wanted.
We all do it. We stay in relationships that we know aren’t working because we’re too afraid to jump into the water alone. We stay in towns and schools and job positions that are unsatisfying because the fear of failure elsewhere keeps us from taking risks. The fact of the matter is you don’t get anywhere without taking that leap of faith.
So I leaped. I did a lot of juggling, late nights and savings account shuffles, and it did work out, without a plan. In less than a month I left my job, traveled to Spain, packed up our apartment, moved to New York City on a Saturday and started my new job on that Monday.
Crazy, right? What’s even crazier is that I love it just as much as I always thought I would. Right now I can hear the city buzz outside my window, and the lights twinkle from behind my curtains. I love the way it energizes me. Everything is so diverse and intricate. News, history, music and art are blooming all around me. Work is challenging and full of opportunity. There’s an adventure on every street corner. I even like watching the people on the subways and the streets. I try to understand their stories and what jumps they’ve had to make in life.
I wonder if they came to New York City because they were running to something, or away from something. A part of me thinks each of us is a little of both.
The real question is what are you running towards? What is your jump that you’ve been too afraid to make, and what’s holding you back from it? I can tell you from the bottom of my soul that it’s worth it. This “jump” concept isn’t something I’ve necessarily coined either.
There were a few times when I felt uneasy about taking chances and my boyfriend would bring out this super cheesy but amazing Steve Harvey video about jumping out of your comfort zone. It’s gold. Steve gets it. He’s jumped, just like many famously successful people have. They
understand the balance between success and failure. You do fall sometimes. You get disappointed and rejected at times. You get some of those bruises on your elbows. But that’s a small price to pay if it means getting to experience the dreams you’ve always held in your heart.
So, what happened when I moved to New York City without a plan? Everything I wanted to happen. It was scary and hectic at first, and it was difficult to leave some things I loved very much behind. But now I have this strange combination of confidence and fulfillment that I could never find before. I’ve gotten lost a few times on this island, been brutally rained on without an umbrella and some guy brushed his croissant crumbs on me while riding beside me on the subway. But hey, I ditched the damn rope and fell head-first into my missing piece, and you can too.
Take the risk. Forget the plans. Nothing ever works out as we’ve planned it. I’ve learned that more than ever this past year. You can figure out the details as you go. That trip, job, move or experience you’ve always wanted is one jump away. You just have to brave enough to let go of the rope, and let yourself free fall into that infinite sense of freedom you’ve always deserved.