We’re all noticing it, right? The years are going faster; wasn’t it just winter last week? Wasn’t autumn last month, and summer 2013 not too long ago? As someone operating on an academic schedule, life seems cyclic and easily separated into chapters based on joined years: 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014…. And the chapters are adding up quickly.
Too often, we choose to wait. It can be anything: pursuing a new career, going back to graduate school, letting yourself fall in love. It could be smaller than that: planning a vacation, trying something new, exploring a desired hobby, reconnecting with an old friend. There are so many reasons we tell ourselves: it’s just not the right time, I don’t have enough money, familiarity is safer, I’m not cut out for this. We promise tomorrow, next year, someday.
When I was 13, I went to a water park with friends from summer camp. We ended up at a cliff-jumping attraction, which was just what it sounded like: a jump off of a cliff into a huge lake. It was probably a 20 or 25 foot jump, but at the time, it seemed like three times that amount. I was terrified, anxiously shuffling my feet at the dirt, watching the line in front of me get smaller and smaller. When it was my turn, I told my friend that I would meet her at the other side; this wasn’t for me. I thought she would understand, but instead she said, “You think too much about everything. Don’t think; just jump.” Maybe I wanted to impress her, maybe I wanted to avoid regret — whatever reason, I decided to listen.
The jump, the fall, the splash, the swim towards the shore — all of this was beyond exhilarating. So much so that we went back again, several more times. Those four words: don’t think, just jump echoed in my head years later, all the way up until the present. Those words are in my head when I’m nervous at an audition, when I have to give a presentation, if I’m nervous about a serious talk I need to have with a significant other or friend. Those words were in my head when I decided to move to a new city where I knew absolutely no one, when I changed careers, when I let down my guard and fell in love.
There are inevitably going to be times in this life when it dawns on us that we’ve been perpetually holding the pause button — whether it’s feeling stuck in a job, or in a heartless city, or a cycle of failed relationships, or just simply feeling like we’re on a hamster wheel of monotony — this is normal. And it’s easy to say just jump when you’ve fallen a few times; it’s much harder to imagine taking a leap when you’ve always been safe on the ground. But we would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t admit that time is limited, and tricking ourselves into believing there’s always a “someday” for every last dream is foolish.
It’s not about being naïve or being idealistic; it’s about being realistic and looking time in the face. It’s not about being unafraid; it’s about being terrified and doing it anyway. So, let’s make a pact right now to stop procrastinating the things that are meaningful to us. Let’s stop self-sabotaging and let’s stop, once in for all, getting in our own damn way. Let’s not wake up tomorrow wishing we jumped into the lake yesterday; let’s get our hair wet right now instead. Who’s with me?