*In Hawaii, as a surfing first-timer, the waves you rode were tiny but your courage matched those surfers tackling 15 foot swells.
In case you didn’t know this: At 27, I was laid off of a job where my colleagues had become family, and I was heartbroken. Within days, jobless, I’d decided to move across the country to chase my dreams in California. I couldn’t have enumerated those dreams for you – in fact, I was barely sure what they looked like – but I had a sense that California was where dreams might thrive. Maybe it was the sunshine? In any case, I put on blinders to all the looming challenges and drove West, not unlike Lewis and Clark, I imagined, or maybe those pioneer women, strong and resolute.
The blinders didn’t protect me from the challenges, mind you. They only got me out the door. Soon I was driving across the wilderness that is Wyoming while I watched tumbleweed scurry across the desolate highway. I remember wondering how long it would take to find my body if something happened to me. Eventually I arrived in San Francisco where I lived with stereotypically crazy roommates, found a job in the collections department of a major retailer where I listened to one tragic story after another and still had to press for payment, and cried my homesick tears through otherwise perfect San Francisco get-out-and-do-something days.
Still, something deep inside urged me to stick to it, to stay. Somehow, I believed, it would all work out. I’d make friends; I’d lay down roots. My dusty blinders stayed put.
Then the Earthquake of ’89 sent tremors through all my dreams. I came inches away from packing it all up and heading home, where mother nature would only throw snowballs at me, not crack the earth beneath my feet. But wait . . . I was about to start student teaching. Just a few more months I reasoned; I just can’t walk away right now. Shaken, I encouraged myself to hang on, if only for a short time. Earthquakes? No worries – I had my trusty blinders and their amazing protective powers.
Maybe it was the little boy in class, with dirt under his fingernails, who grinned wildly as he read his first book. Maybe it was that I landed a job in a middle school, which terrified me but where I worked with people who would become like family and heal my injured, laid-off heart. Or maybe it was the friend I made in my new district, a friend who would be game to explore new places like Death Valley and Big Sur, whose presence in my life would become a lifelong treasure. Whatever it was, I stayed. And stayed. Eventually, I met and married a man who would prompt me to finally take off my blinders and call this place home.
It only took 10 years.
30 years after I made my journey west, I’m now thinking a lot about leaps of faith. What does it take to step out the door and into the unknown? Did I really wear blinders or did I just have faith that if I stuck with it, it would all work out? Maybe one of the keys, really, is trust, trust that is built on proof. Proof that storms give way to rainbows and puppies — and other horribly trite, cliché, and oh-so-true life-isms. Go ahead, roll your eyes. Faith also comes with a fair bit of doubt and cynicism. And to take that leap means you’ll also have a healthy dose of fear . . . after all, this could be the time it doesn’t work out, right?
Here’s the thing. If you don’t take the leap, you fail automatically.
The great thing about leaps of faith is that we kind of grow into them. First steps first. You took a great leap of faith when you were five and went to Ridgerunners day camp without knowing a soul. You were a little teary-eyed as I left you at that picnic table shaded by tall trees and surrounded by kids of all ages, but you came home full of stories and adventures. You took another leap of faith at 8 years old when you went to your first sleep-away camp, once again teary-eyed on your departure, but ready to return to Camp Ravencliff the second you got home and climbed off the bus. At the end of freshman year in high school, remember how you took a scary leap of faith to go to that college-bound engineering camp, hours away from home? Your roommate, as it sometimes happens, became a friend and your experiences paved the way for your passion in engineering. It’s amazing how leaps of faith bear fruit.
College is the next step . . . well, leap. It’s a big one – and you’re going far from home. But you’re ready, as ready as anyone. You’ll timidly take those first steps on campus and you’ll shyly talk to kids you’ve never met before, kids who come to the same place with vastly different points of view. You’ll sit up front in your classes, so you don’t miss a word, and you’ll sit among strangers in the dining hall, where you’ll jump into conversations. Sometimes, you’ll be homesick – and you’ll have days where nothing seems to go right. But you’ll know how to advocate for yourself – and you’ll have a ton of resources to draw on. You’ll go to sleep at night and tomorrow will be better, because a new day is full of newness and possibilities (there I go again with trite, cliché life-isms!).
There will be many more times you’ll have to take that leap of faith, to step out the door into the unknown. It’s good to take a look at the landscape around you, to look at all the pros and cons. When the pros somehow outweigh the cons, you’re ready. Really. Put on some lovely, sparkly blinders and remember that you’ve always survived the hard times before. You will again. You’ve got this. There might even be rainbows and puppies on the other side – or something like that.