Some of you have asked me about how I’ve made my (many, many) transitions in life. How I’ve changed careers, towns, life approaches.
I’ve been asked, variously: how do you know when it’s time to move on? How do you pick that delicate juncture between opportunity lost and opportunity ready to be gained? How do you know what’s right? How do you… know?
Often it looks like I just jump, often from a grand height. I guess I do. But in the past few years it’s been to the beat of some pretty cool imagery I was given a few years back. I thought I’d share it.
You see, I used to see a “spiritual coach” (called, appropriately, Sky) years ago. I was editing Cosmopolitan at the time and I charged Sky with “grounding me” and keeping me real in a world that I really didn’t want to get lost in. We had a weekly appointment on a Thursday.
When it came time, four years in, to leave the job I had a really tough time making the decision. Not that anyone knew.
I was really unwell (I had adrenal collapse and hashimotos, but didn’t realise) and struggling, but it was a friggen great job. Should I dump everything – quit my job and enter the unknown? Surely it has to be better than the quagmire I was dragging my limbs around in. Or do I persevere? After all, most people just have to. They have kids and mortgages and dropping out of a job just isn’t an option they can consider. I envied their lack of choice. Was I being indulgent?
It was the unknown bit that daunted me. The lack of guarantees.
And the fear that I was being unnecessary. That the starving children in Africa didn’t fret they were living an existential lie.
I remember thrashing it out with Sky: What if it’s just me and not the circumstances…and I quit my job and things only get worse? Because what if I had this wrong? What if life really was about getting a secure footing on the conveyorbelt and neatly passing from school to job to partner to holidays in Port Macquarie? What if this is as meaningful as it gets?
What if I’d overcomplicated things and when I do pursue the unknown, it’s no better? Wherever I go, there I am. A cloud of over-thinking and deliberation in my wake.
I’ve asked these same questions so many times in my life. I asked it when both my previous longterm relationships came to an end. I fretted whether I’d ever find anyone better. At 27 I was willing to take that risk. At 34, I was more tentative and I doubted myself and whether I was doing the right thing, which made the post-breakup pain more protracted. As an aside, that’s what long recovery periods are. They’re rarely a reflection of the love you felt in the relationship. It’s more closely related to the level of self-doubt you emerge with. It can take years to recalibrate and realize the unknown is OK, that you were not wrong. It took me three years to recalibrate after my second love.
I went through it when I deferred my law studies to travel for a year. What if I was wasting a year in which I could be getting ahead? Our default position is safety. We’re programmed biologically to not expend unnecessary energy. Unless, of course, something bigger than base survival instinct tugs at us.
But then Sky shared this:
“The thing about life, sweetheart, is this.
When we take a leap from a secure place into the unknown, we’re always carried to the next stage safely.
“When we finally get the courage to just jump, we freefall for a bit. But then, as we’re falling, we grow angel wings that carry us on to the next solid platform, to the next stage.”
I’m not much of an “angels wings” type. But I got the gist. Life supports us, it just does.
Sky added this:
“The problem is, we all want to go out and buy ourselves a set of angel wings first, before we jump. But there’s no such thing as an angel wing shop.”
There most certainly isn’t.
When I jump I always feel alone and naked.
Sometimes we just have to trust the tugging and jump. We don’t know why and we won’t until we’re falling. We just have to hope the bloody angels knew where we’re heading.