“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” was a question in my interview for a private school at age 13. To me, the question was unsettling. I could barely decide on what I wanted to wear to school let alone the vision I had for my 18-year-old legal to vote, buy porn and cigarettes self. I felt as if there was a right answer. So, I did what I always did when I felt uncomfortable; I started laughing until my face contorted into a Claire Danes ugly cry and pulled my knees in front of my face and refused to speak. I could feel the disappointment of the room wash over me. I wanted my parents to save me from this witch of a woman asking me terrifying questions or better yet have the answer for me.
Questions about my future have daunted me ever since. The fear of getting it wrong, the fear of going after something and failing, the fear of making a huge mistake, the fear of making any mistake, the fear of declaring what I want in my life and how I want to live it. Fear has dictated a number of my decisions be its job opportunities, salaries, relationships, relocating, trying something new. I let it bubble up and fester until finally, I can’t take it anymore. I get sick of it. Sick of the self-doubt, the negativity, the worry of what other people think, and I let go. I never loved the term ‘leap of faith’, it gets thrown around so flippantly, like “just go for it” as if it’s such an easy thing to do because it’s not. A leap of faith is profoundly personal and defined individually. It can’t be compared or measured by success or failure. It requires a level of risk. Two instances come to mind when I think of taking a leap of faith, both were for love but each in a different way.
His name was Ross. We met in high school and reconnected on a double date ten years later. He was attractive, incredibly smart, kind, and hung on my every word. I had never felt this way about anyone; he made me feel like I was the only one in the room, that I was smart and funny and sexy. Every guy I had dated up to that point played games, feared commitment and-or emotional connection. Ross was sure of himself and very sure of me. And I fell for him, hard. He was studying for his Ph.D. in Champaign, IL so we tried long-distance until the reality set in that he had three years left in school and I couldn’t bring myself to say I was leaving Los Angeles for a guy in Illinois. Even though I didn't really love my job, I just couldn’t do it. Move to the Midwest? What would my friends and family think of me? What would I even do in Champaign? There’s nothing even remotely related to my career there. So, I ended it. Months went by, “Did I make a huge mistake?”. It haunted me. I received a letter from Ross; it was heartbreakingly honest and sincere. At that moment, I knew I would regret not trying Illinois for the rest of my life. So, I packed my car with all my belongings and drove 32 hours to Champaign, Illinois.
Moving in with a significant other is exciting and terrifying. We made our world around each other. We cooked dinner together, watched our favorite shows, shared one closet, shared one bathroom, shared friends, and we got a dog, I even started to like football. I found comfort in our predictable day-to-day. By many standards we were happy, but as months went on, I could feel myself becoming restless. I chalked up my codependency to “nesting,” but inside I knew I felt purposeless. I found a part-time job working at the University where I was surrounded by graduate and undergraduate students that seemed to have their career trajectory charted since their conception. I was envious. The last time I felt that kind of clarity was in middle school when I wrote a 25-page autobiography boldly stating that I wanted to be a writer. But somewhere between puberty and adulthood, I lost that conviction. I decided that playing it safe and being agreeable was a better bet than the possibility of failure.
The sacrifice I had made to move my life to Champaign felt romantic and selfless, but deep down I selfishly believed the universe owed me something in return for the noble decision I had made. Failure was not an option for this relationship no matter the cost. However, it became painfully clear that we had become two strangers and his obliviousness to my despair drove me deeper into my hole of resentment. If I could just stop feeling this way, if I could only find a passion, if I could just be happy, but I couldn’t. I felt crippled trying to make decisions, and I could feel my incessant need for his affirmation and attention driving him further and further away from me. I was lost. I woke up one Monday morning and realized that I had spent the weekend making applesauce and watching an entire season of Keeping Up with The Kardashians. I was bored and depressed and terrified that I had spent a whole year trying so hard to fit myself into someone else’s life that I had completely lost sight of my own. Leaving Champaign and the life we built was one of the hardest things I have ever done, where was I going? What would I do? For the first time, I knew that to take hold of something there I had to let go, as painful and uncertain as it felt.