So, when was the last time that you took a leap of faith? When was the last time you just took a chance on something, with no idea how things would work out or end up? It’s a scary proposition for sure.
Well, this morning while cleaning, I listened to the radio show/podcast “This American Life” It’s a show that picks a topic, and then offers stories from people about the o topic. It’s very interesting and entertaining, and I’ve become a regular listener. This week’s topic was “The Leap” and it was about the above question…what happens when people take leaps into the unknown.
I don’t think of myself as an extraordinary person by any stretch of the imagination. I have, however, taken great leaps of faith at three pivotal moments in my life.
The first was when I decided to join the Army. I was at the time, well shortly before, going to school at Western Illinois University, majoring in music education. During the fall semester of 1998, I came to the horrific realization that I’d run out of money to pay for school. The option for taking out more loans was a distinct possibility, but I was adamant about not having a huge amount of loans upon graduating…only if I knew then what I know now.
And to make a long story short, in early January, I packed up my crap, and before I knew it I was back in Chicago. At the time, I tried everything I could to earn and save money so I could return to school.
You have to understand, I was that kid who knew he was going to college, because my parents and teachers always told me I was. I was a bright kid. Gifted programs, accelerated courses, honor roll, etc, etc, etc. The fact that I now was not in college…it was just something I had not even taken into consideration.
I remember starting with a job at RPS. Really good pay, only part time though. I loaded trucks for shipping. I also worked at Hollywood Video, hawking romantic comedies to lonely housewives.
I just remember thinking I’ll never save enough money to get back to school. And then, I remembered when the Illinois National Guard Bandmaster had come to WIU. “Join the Army Band, play, we’ll pay your loans, etc.”
I visited the National Guard Armory in Crestwood IL. on October 30, 2000 and was directed to Sgt. Smith’s office. She told me she didn’t know much about the band, but could find out and give me a call. She then mentioned that she had some other jobs available, and then mentioned an $8,000 signing bonus, and that history was written. I went back and signed my contract on Halloween.
The second leap was when I accepted a job teaching in Tok, Alaska. Yes, Tok is as small as it sounds. I applied for a teaching job in Alaska as kind of a joke. My mother is from Alaska. I’d visited there twice, for funerals on both occasions mind you, and I remember thinking “I would never live in this place.” So when I was called for an interview, I thought it was funny. Sure I said. I think my thought was they’d never hire me. I’m so far away, and I’m not small town…and I’m black. What a scandal.
And a few hours, following the interview, there I was talking to the superintendent. I got the job? “Umm…can I call you back tomorrow morning with my decision?” I hadn’t even considered I would get the job. Nonetheless, I accepted…on a Wednesday. I knew little to nothing about Tok. I called up my friends, I sold everything I could, broke my lease, did a power of Attorney on my car so my mother could sell it, and on Saturday, I was at the airport. Now, going from Chicago to Tok was a shock to the system to say the least.
I don’t regret either decision. I had some amazing experiences, met some amazing people, and have enjoyed it all for the most part. I think this is why the episode of This American Life resonated with me so much, because I am currently drifting in the wake of the third leap.
I spent 2010-2014 teaching. I love teaching. Those who’ve seen me done it tell me I’m pretty good at it. However, my last year…was in no uncertain terms, horrible. Teaching is one of those strange professions where location is everything. You have to be in the right place. Every teacher has a school that is perfect for them…somewhere. I was just in the wrong place. I felt so depleted by the end of the year, I knew that I wouldn’t be teaching the following year. I had no desire to at all.
And here I am. I walked away from the profession I’d spent the last four year spending hours getting better at. The profession that I’d spent years in college to do, and more importantly, with no other job prospects on the horizon.
It wasn’t easy. It was scary. At moments, it still is. But I think back to the past, and yes, I had scary moments in the Army, and in Alaska…but here I am, better for getting through them. And ultimately, I am so very happy with the decision. I’m much less stressed, and I have much more time to indulge in those things which ultimately make life worth living…my Jiu Jitsu, my biking, family, and friends. For the first time in years, I am working to live, not living to work.
So, the next time you’re presented with an opportunity to take a leap…into the unknown…into the scary darkness…how are you going to play your hand?