I’ve been under the weather for the better part of a week now, but the time abed has afforded me countless hours of watching bad movies. One that made me sit up was the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves. There’s a scene where Keanu and John Cleese talk about how species only evolve when threatened with annihilation. The movie wasn’t very good but this exchange clicked with the idea for this post. You see, I’m the classic case of someone who waits until things are unbearable, until it hurts more to stay in the same place than to move on, before changing the scene.
If you’re new to Traveling Savage, my plan is to use this blog as a platform to share my observations, insights, and quests as I travel for one month in every three. Along the way I’ll choose the experiential travel path wherever I can in honest efforts to understand the culture and the land. When I’m not traveling, I’ll return to my wife, Sarah, to our three cats, to our house in the suburbs with refreshed eyes and whatever boons I’ve acquired while away.
That’s the plan. These days I’m in the corporate world, where I’ve been for the last seven years. So why the change? I’m not yet 30, but the sheen of age is silently sneaking gray threads into my hair. It took me three days to recover from a flag football game. These are the unremarkable losses born out of an office job that quietly stack up like a great, collapsing wave. The truth is I could live with these simple physical reminders if they were the only signals, but I’d bound and gagged my creativity many years earlier, too.
I was on the precipice.
prec-i-pice (noun): a situation of great peril.
per-il (noun): something that endangers or involves risk.
The precipice is the moment when your current path ends, that metaphorical ledge that demands a response. You can choose to jump toward some new path or you can stand still, frozen in place, decision-less, teetering on the brink of the precipice unable to make a decision or oblivious to the fact that you should be making one. Jumping is hardest. Who knows, you might cartwheel off into the chasm. On the other hand, you might land on solid ground with a new path open before you. But it’s almost always dark across the chasm. The paths we need to walk are rarely mapped.
I was on a precipice alright, and I’d been stuck there for years. The key for me is that word “risk” in the definition of peril. I have been a risk-averse person. Perhaps I’ve called it pragmatism in the past. I used to bemoan the occurrence of hardship, of precipices, as if the ideal life would be one without difficulty, without tests of spirit and courage. But I’ve come to view the precipice as desirable, as a milestone in life. Most dictionaries define risk as the chance for loss, but it is also the chance for gain. Whether you find your footing on solid ground or emerge from the depths of the chasm to start anew, you jumped. You found the courage to reach for something knowing that you might fail and fall into the chasm.
The irony does not escape me that it took a cold December night to unfreeze myself. Sure, life was good enough there on the precipice. But I wasn’t moving forward, and when has “good enough” ever really been good enough? For me, traveling is the greatest expression of jumping.
I’ll let you know if I hit solid ground.
Look at your own situation. Are you on a precipice? Have you decided to jump?