I usually only take risks impulsively, before I’ve thought it through and had time to talk to myself out of it. I jump in fast or I don’t jump at all. So when I put my notice in at work without a job lined up, though after much deliberation, I surprised a lot of people, including myself. I had been talking about it for years but nothing ever worked out as far as lining up another job, so I stayed, even though I hated it along with the drama that came with it.
My capacity for dealing with stress was stretched to the limit, and if I had given any real credence to my instincts and truly put my own well-being first, I would have quit a long, long time ago. Finally, as phobias began to form and panic attacks became a daily event, I decided that self-destructing was no longer an option. I knew I had enough money to get me by for about two months, long enough to hopefully find something else, so I began my goodbyes and started counting down the days.
Something happened when I got to that point where doing what was right for me outweighed the risk of stepping into the unknown: I started to get comfortable with not knowing. I didn’t tell anyone that I was putting my notice in until after I gave it, that way no one could talk me out of such an impractical move (as well-meaning family and friends are wont to do). As the two weeks crept by, I oscillated between fear and excitement. The fears were harsh, as in, I could be homeless in April in Minnesota, and let’s be honest, that’s like being homeless in the arctic but crueler. The excitement was amazing because anything was possible now. And soon, the voice of excitement began to drown out the voice of fear.
On my last day, still with no new job although I had been applying, it occurred to me that when I made my decision without knowing what the future held, I took a step in faith, and now my only constructive choice was to trust that everything would work out, that the universe would meet me where I am. I thought about what I really wanted in a career and in life. All the things I really want require risk and availability and a comfortableness with mystery.
I had a job interview on my first day of freedom, and I didn’t get that position. I did land a job not long after, one that was Monday through Friday, part-time hours, with decent pay. Now I can attend those weekend art exhibits and classes whereas before I always had to work weekends, and now I can devote my free-time to my loved ones and passions instead of working overtime and trying uncomfortably to fit my family and friends into what little time I had while my own creative needs went unmet. Most importantly, now I have the space and the confidence to be absolutely true to myself. All it took was one step into the darkness, and the path presented itself to my feet.
Mary Oliver, in her poem The Summer Day, said, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I’m setting mine ablaze with passion, fanning the flames with creativity and love, and not wasting another second on fear and self-imposed limits that held me captive for so long before. This lesson in embracing the unknown may very well be the most important lesson I will ever learn, and it comes bearing the gifts of true freedom and joy.
Jessica Ripley is an artist from Minnesota who loves puddle jumping in crazy rain boots and other random acts of joy.