19: Taking a Leap

19: Taking a Leap

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Taking a Leap

You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.

~Mandy Hale

There was no question I had a good job — a six-figure salary, stock options, and potential for advancement. Best of all, I enjoyed my work researching herbs for the treatment of common ailments. My formulas offered a safe alternative to traditional over-the-counter drugs, and that gave me satisfaction. I worked with folks who were for the most part congenial, and my office in downtown Chattanooga was only a short commute from my home. I had nothing specific to complain about and yet I was not content.

I felt like a very large person stuffed inside a very small box. I wanted room to swing my arms, stretch my legs, and reach my full stature. Perhaps a career change was in order. But to what? I had no idea, and altering course in mid-life wouldn’t be easy. Still, a wee voice prodded me to take a risk — to leap even without knowing where I would land. I toyed with the idea, but I was too afraid to make a move.

And then I remembered that time in Maui.

I had lived close enough to the beach to hear the surf pound the shore, but I was in love with the region the locals called upcountry. It was dotted with eucalyptus and jacaranda trees and offered spectacular views of the island. I longed to spend time there, but I was terrified of driving the narrow road that wound its way up the volcano. Though I told myself that one day I would do it, that day never seemed to come. Then a wise friend asked me, “If not now, then when?” I had no answer for him, and that simple truth coursed through me like a bolt of electricity. Life was unpredictable and short. Why not now? With my stomach churning, I got in the car, snaked up the Haleakala Highway, and looked down at the sea.

The drive had been liberating. I had pushed past my boundaries, mastering those hairpin turns despite my fear. I knew I could do it again. I could take a leap. I considered a sabbatical, a complete break from the 9 to 5 that would give me the time to explore my possibilities. It was a radical notion, but I had savings. I could make it work. I tried to picture myself lingering over my morning coffee as my husband Andy grabbed a bagel and rushed off to his office. But I couldn’t quite see it.

And then a new idea came to me. It was one that would require Andy to take a leap as well. Before we married, Andy had told me that he dreamed of living in Israel. He had spent six months on a kibbutz after high school, and in college he spent his junior year in Jerusalem. He loved the people and the land, and he wanted to go back. I had no particular draw to Israel, and the wars and terror attacks hardly made it a vacation paradise. I made it clear to him then that I wasn’t interested in emigrating. Still, I had left the door open for an extended visit someday.

Maybe, I thought, this was the time for that visit.

That night, as I placed the last of the dishes into the drying rack, I turned to Andy. “You know how I’ve been saying that I want to make a change? What if we both did? What if we went to live in Israel?”

“Really? You mean leave our jobs, and just go?” he said.

“Yes. For a year. That’s all.”

It didn’t take any convincing to get Andy on board. He began planning out loud. Other engineers had taken a leave of absence from his workplace. He would ask for one too. I told him that I would resign, that I wanted to do something different when we returned. We were both quiet after that. I could hardly believe that I had voiced such unlikely ideas. I began to quiver and to backpedal.

“Well, what I meant to say was that maybe I could see myself in Israel if we were participating in an organized program.”

Andy was an adventurer. He was fine with taking off for parts unknown and figuring it all out as he went along. But not me. I explained to him that I was not prepared to just hang out in a country where I didn’t speak the language. That would be too hard. I wanted us to go on a program for English speakers that provided room and board, classes in Hebrew and Israeli studies, and the opportunity to travel.

Being the resident Israel expert, he took on the assignment of finding a program that would meet my specifications. Day by day, my list of requirements grew along with my anxiety. I was like a baby bird stretching and flapping her wings but not quite ready to leap from the nest. The day Andy announced that he’d found the perfect program for us my knees buckled. I took a few deep breaths and to shore up my courage whispered the words that had become my mantra: “If not now, when?”

We filled out an application, plastered the envelope with airmail stamps, and dropped it in the mailbox. The wheels were set in motion. Not a week later, Andy got word from his boss. There would be no leave of absence. If he left, we would return from Israel without a roof or a job between us. Andy was still game. It was up to me.

One by one, my second thoughts melted away under the bright light of opportunity.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s go for it.”

Days rolled into weeks as we put all our stateside affairs in order. We both gave notice at work, made care arrangements for our mutt Tova, and began paring down the contents of our three-bedroom house, tossing or giving away whatever wouldn’t fit in a ten by fifteen storage unit. Then at 5 p.m., on the very cusp of the new millennium, I hugged my co-workers goodbye and left my office for the last time. I had a copy of Herbs of Commerce, a framed photo of Andy, an African violet in a clay pot — and my own heart bursting with possibility.

~Lorri Danzig

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