Yesterday, this happened: after almost 6 and a half years, I resigned from my job. It still makes me feel a bit shaky thinking about it, especially since I don’t actually have a next move planned. To describe what this decision was like, I’m going to tell a story. Some of the people I work with may remember hearing this story before. Perhaps that is one of the indications that it is time to move on—when you start repeating your stories. But let’s put that aside for a moment. ￼
Several years ago, I was invited to my friend, Steve’s cottage for the first time. Our other friend, Steve had also come along. I was eager to see the fabled BIG ROCK that was often the topic of conversation after Steve came back from a cottage weekend; how he had jumped off the BIG ROCK and it was so friggin’ high! Steve was known to exaggerate at times, becoming overly-excited over the smallest things. This one time, on one of our many Saturday night searches for a rumoured epic house party, he had us almost crashing the vehicle we were in, convinced he’d won $50,000 on the scratch ticket he’d bought along with the Doritos and RC Colas we’d picked up at the corner store. Turned out to be only $5.
The three of us tramped through the dry brush of the hot July forest a short ways from the cottage to the base of the BIG ROCK. It didn’t look that high at all. I scoffed as Steve lead the climb up it with footholds familiar to a boy who’d gone there every summer of his childhood until that one in his 2nd year of university.
When we got to the top, I realized that we had climbed up the back of the BIG ROCK. The front of the BIG ROCK had a much taller surface. The entire BIG ROCK was in fact set into a sloping hill, the pitch of which lowered down into the lake. Standing at the highest peak of the BIG ROCK, looking down into the water, I had a moment of realization as to how it had earned its name. It was indeed a BIG ROCK.
“You gonna jump?” Steve sneered.
“I don’t think she’s going to jump,” the other Steve said, watching my face.
“I’m going to jump,” I told them both, stepping out of my shoes.
Carefully, I inched out to the edge of the rock. The stone was warm on my feet and felt nice. Like I could stand there a while longer and just enjoy it, nice. I could hear the two Steves behind me, settling in for the show.
“She’s not going to jump,” the second Steve told the first.
“You’re not gonna jump,” Steve 1 said to me.
“I’m going to jump,” I said to no one in particular.
The two Steves, by this time lying down on their towels, started chatting to each other about the dumb things two university kids named Steve talk about, ostensibly ignoring me. Good, I thought, now I can concentrate on psyching myself up.
Every time I walked out to the edge of the BIG ROCK, I would look down—way down—to the water’s surface and think, damn, that is far. My stomach would do this little flip-flop that, now that I think of it, is not unlike the good kind of butterflies you feel remembering the unfamiliar warm breath of that moment just before a first kiss. But in that context, completely different. I’d take a few steps back and immediately feel better. Safe. I’m not going to do it, I told myself. What’s the point? Those guys aren’t going to care either way. Step forward toward the edge. Look down. Throat closes up. Step back. Shoulders lower, buttocks unclench, all is OK again.
Every once in a while, I’d hear the conversation pause behind me as the boys checked in on my progress. I could tell by their tone that they’d pretty much given up on me at that point. Curiously, this is what kept egging me on, I think. If you’ve known me for some time, you know that I can’t resist the challenge to prove myself. If you tell me that you wouldn’t expect me to do something, I am going to try to prove you so wrong you’ll admit your previous ignorance and I’ll feel vindicated. In fact, the two personal trainers I’ve had have been successful by figuring out this technique. “I don’t think you’ll be able to do this,” they’d say, “But give it a try.” And then I’d show them.
Back on top of the BIG ROCK, I was giving myself a pep talk: Deep breath. You’re going to do this. Just do it. Do it. DO IT. DO IT! DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT.
I can’t do it.
And then I did it.
When the coyote would fall off a cliff, he’d often hang suspended in mid-air before starting his downward chromatic scale plummet to the dry desert puff of dust landing spot below. That’s what I felt like. For a nanosecond, I was like, oh shit what did I do what happened who did that oh it was me help.
And then, full resignation. Because at that point, there’s no fighting gravity. You’re falling and your stomach is on the rise and the breath is being ripped from your chest and you’re dying. You’re going to die. And you can’t believe how long that fall is. Oh God oh God oh God, I don’t even believe in you, but please, God, let this fall be over soon so I can just go ahead and die already.
And then SMACK! I hit the water so hard, ass first it would seem, for as the crack of the impact still rang in my ears, changing into the deep bass of blub blub blub bubbles rushing past, I could feel my bathing suit shoot so far up my various female entryways that it shocked me to an underwater scream.
But then was not the time to worry about that because I had plunged very deep into the lake and I could tell it was going to take me some time to get to the surface, based on the popping in my ears and the drop in temperature of the water. With my eyes only open a slit, as to not lose my contact lenses, I swam as quickly as I could toward where the light was, panic setting in as I had lost a lot of breath in my silent scream during the fall.
After what felt like a year or so, I broke through the water’s surface and heaved as much air as I could in a raspy, whistling breath.
“Wow!” I looked up and saw the two Steves grinning down at me from the top of the BIG ROCK. “We didn’t think you were going to do it!”
I shrugged while treading water and called back, “Your turn!”
“No way!” they shouted back.
Ahhh, sweet vindication.
* * *
My decision-making process to leave my job has been very long. Just ask my close friends how long I’ve been batting this one back and forth. I know it might seem like it was all of a sudden, but believe me, it was proportionately as long, as arduous, as vacillatory in nature as deciding to take the leap off the BIG ROCK that hot July day back in a year that did not begin with the number 2.
Also similar was that the moment I sealed my fate by committing to the decision was almost a surprise. And it was over in a millisecond. And after that, gravity took over. But I did it. I wanted to do it, I said I was going to do it, and I did it.
However, I know that it would NEVER have been possible without the support of so many absolutely amazing people who have helped me so much along the way, whether they know it or not. I will figure out a way to thank you all appropriately, for this leap would not have happened without the comfort and security of knowing that you would all be there to help me extract my painfully-wedged bathing suit from whence it hath plunged. Gentle tugging. Please. And thank you.
Originally posted October 19, 2012