Near my parent’s lake house there is a huge waterfall. Near the falls there is a tall rock you can jump off of and fall about thirty feet into a small lagoon below. My brother and I used to love taking friends and lakehouse visitors up to the rock with us to see if we could get them to jump.
I remember the first time I jumped off the rock;I didn’t think twice about it–the excitement pushing me to run ahead and fall. That’s the beauty of doing things for the first time–you are fearless, and often the pleasure of doing something for the first time leads us to push any doubt to the back of our minds.
I’ve only been able to jump off the rock three times, my last was about four years ago. I attempted a fourth, but standing there looking over the edge to the sharp drop below I felt my stomach turn. The old familiar feeling was fear-really, really, raw fear. Confronted with actual danger my body was producing it’s “fight or flight” response and suddenly for the first time in my short twenty-five years, I wanted to flee. “How many times can I do this without hurting myself?” I wondered, eyeing the small pool. If you shifted two feet over during the drop you could break a leg, an arm, or worse. There are plenty of Cherokee County horror stories about accidents happening at the rock. “What do I have to prove?” I asked “I’ve already done this three times before.”
That fourth time I ended up coming back down, saying I didn’t “feel up to it”, and my friends let it go at that. Perhaps none of them really wanted to jump off the rock either.
Everyone says “Conquer your fears”, and “It gets easier the more you do it.” In some instances.. yes. What few tell you is that the first time you do it, the first time you jump off a rock, jump out of a plane, sing in front of a crowd–that will be the easiest it will ever be. Each time you face up to your fears you have to take a few more steps and so it gets incrementally harder each time. I think this is why so many people set goals and then give up before they ever get started–taking a leap, whether it be literal or figurative is hard…to keep going after you have started is even harder.
Why am I rambling on? I hope you guys will indulge a break from the personal finance world and allow me to vent some of my feelings. I am taking an impromptu trip out to the west coast this week, and for now we are calling it a vacation…but it could possibly end up being another cross country move. For one reason or another, I believe there may be more opportunities out there for me, and with a whole bevy of friends making their way to the sunny city it is certainly an opportune time for me to follow suit.
The thing is…I suddenly feel as if I’m on the rock for that fourth time, peering over and wondering if I have it in me to just throw caution to the wind and start over some place new. One of my favorite stories is telling (bragging) everyone how I moved to New York with three hundred dollars and a suitcase (True!). The only difference between then and now is that I have more money and experience, but I just can’t seem to get any momentum up in my sails. I was really excited the first few days as I planned my trip, but now…I almost dread going. What is wrong with me?
Maybe it is fear that is holding me back… keeping me from being excited about this new prospect. Maybe I’m just exhausted from being to New York and back in just under two years. Not knowing what it is that I really want to do with my life is also something weighing on my mind. Why bother making all the effort to move to L.A. when I don’t even know what it is I want to spend my life doing? That seems emotionally and financially imprudent, but at the same time I can’t just sit tight and wait for purpose to find me.
If the opposite of fear really is excitement, few things truly get me going these days. This blog, growing my readership and following the pf community on twitter are pretty much the only things I get any real “joy” out of (and of course, Murray!). I don’t have to go all the way to the West Coast to do those things.
What do you do when confronted with fear?