Risking it all


A friend of mine recently posted the above sign on her Facebook page, and I had no choice but to share it with my Facebook community (and now you). Although I find the sentiment a little negatively toned as worded, I completely agree with it.

As many of you know, I jumped off a cliff about 18 months ago, completely turning my life upside down in pursuit of the dream of being a screenwriter. To do that, I have made a large number of sacrifices to the way my life was, but in the interim, I have discovered some wonderful things—about me and my friends—that I might never have learned if I hadn’t.

Last week, I had drinks with another friend, someone who had made a similar jump to mine. Like me, he has had some wonderful times during this phase of his life, but he is also struggling with doubt and the sense that the years of effort haven’t paid off as he would have liked. Doubt is a thing I understand.

At this moment, I have no doubt or at least not about my dream. It seems as real and viable as ever. Its realization is simply a matter of time in and work on my part. I revel in these moments and wish my friend could feel the same way right now.

When doubt does creep in, however, I do my best to give it context.

The doubt: Can I afford this conference? Is this screenplay any good? Have I made a mistake? Am I a fraud?

The context: What is the alternative?

I look back at my life before I made the jump and I realize that I can’t go back to that. This is not to say that it was all miserable…I had love and support; I enjoyed aspects of my jobs; I met wonderful people. But in many ways, all of those positives were for naught back then because I was miserable.

I was living my life for other people. I based my identity on my job and what I did for other people. I was only as good, as valuable, as loved as other people told me I was, and deep inside, I truly suspected they were lying. Through no fault of theirs, I couldn’t have faith in them because I didn’t have faith in me.

So, when I finally jumped off the cliff, I realized that what I was risking was a life of well masked misery and distrust. Hardly much of a risk from my perspective.

I understand that others cannot always jump as wholeheartedly as I did. They have responsibilities that I did not have.

I have no children. My wife and I were separating for other reasons (nice to say she remains my strongest and most loving advocate and supporter). My family responsibilities had all but disappeared. My jumping would leave no one in the lurch.

So, maybe you can’t jump like I did. I’m not suggesting that it is right for everyone. But to not jump at all in pursuit of a passion is folly.

Every day you maintain the lie, whatever your personal lie is, is another day you risk it all.

It will be scary. You will have doubts. But you’re not doing anyone any favours, least of all yourself, by continuing to pursue activities, attitudes or a life that is crushing you.

I hope my friend relocates the wonder in what he is doing and continues to explore his adventure. If he will let me, I am happy to help him in any way I can.

He is a very lucky man because he is surrounded by love and support from a community of people who adore him and want him to be happy. I hope he can take energy from that. I know I do.

Great distances

I sat down recently to come up with some of the great distances in the known universe and think I have discovered the one that trumps them all.

Riding the elevator on Toronto’s CN Tower? Like falling off a log.

Leaping the chasm of the Grand Canyon? Pfft, nothing!

Swimming the Pacific Ocean? Like taking a bath.

Visiting the Oort Cloud at the edge of our solar system? A walk on a foggy day.

No, my friends, none of these is even close to the Greatest Distance in the Universe. That title goes to the space between the nib of a pen and the paper beneath it. I know this, because I have spent hours of my life watching people who cannot traverse this great gap.

The pen sits poised. Ink tantalizingly and agonizingly close to realizing its dream of spreading through the fibres of the paper. You can practically hear the Siren call of the note pad, seducing the ink to come join it in creative matrimony.

And yet, nothing.

The muscles of the hands tighten. The forearm presses harder into the table. The blood accelerates through the capillaries. Neurons in the brain fire in all directions. The spirit wails in unfulfilled lust.

And yet, nothing.

The gap is too large. The rewards uncertain. The risks too high.

Like a supportive father-to-be, I want to scream “Push!” and remind them to breathe.

Like a bicycle-training parent, I just want to nudge their hand to the paper and trail alongside it as it wends its way across the page, releasing just as it seems they have the hang of it.

Like a police psychologist, I just want to talk them down, let them know it will be okay.

But I am powerless in this process. This is something they have to do for themselves, much as I did for myself. When they are ready, they will write.

Until then, as a friend, I will stand with them at the edge of the abyss and imagine what is on the other side, awaiting them.

Any journey is an individual one, no matter how many people come along. (View from Mt. Baker in Washington State)

Any journey is an individual one, no matter how many people come along. (View from Mt. Baker in Washington State)