It’s the stuff refrigerator magnets and greeting cards are made of. You may have seen it written out as:
When you come to the edge of the light that you know, and are about to step out into the darkness, you can be sure of one thing – there will be solid ground beneath you, or you will learn how to fly.
or, more simply,
Leap and the net will appear.
But either way you write it the point is the same – scary things are coming, and you have to be brave enough to go through them. Well, in theory.
I, on the other hand, have pretty much always just been afraid. I’m not very good at believing in the net. Maybe it goes back to a summer Saturday long ago, standing on top of a rocky point above a waterfall. My friends, and even my boyfriend, had leaped from the cliff and were swimming in the dark pool of water below. I tried. I stepped to the edge. I held my breath. I couldn’t do it. In failure I sat down with my toes at the edge, and a bare foot appeared next to my hand. I looked up. My best friend Mark was standing over me, looking down. “You don’t have to jump,” he said, and held out his hand. “We could just walk down.” So I took his hand, and we walked. I’ve pretty much been walking ever since – no leaping here, no way.
Well, until now. I’ve found myself at a junction – leaving my safe, cozy, 40-hour-a-week desk job and starting to form a career as a real freelance theatre designer. If ever there was leaping in my life, this is it. I’m afraid. I’ll admit it. It’s hard out there for artists, and there are zero guarantees. But the machinery of the change is already running, and movement toward the edge is inevitable at this point.
It was with all of this fear in my head that I arrived at the Squealing Pig, my favorite little pub, with a group of theatre friends. As we got to talking Adrienne explained how she was painting a show in Providence by taking the commuter rail back and forth. And Annie chimed in that she was on her way to DC for a production meeting that she would attend, and then turn around and come back from. They would coincidentally both cross paths in NYC a few weeks down the road, before Adrienne got back to Boston to open a show and Annie took off to her summer job in Minneapolis. They were freelancing with vigor! And they were both really happy about it.
In listening to them I started to feel just the tiniest bit encouraged, excited, and even inspired. Here were two women that I think do a hell of a job at their jobs, and they are artists, and they are making it work. “Don’t worry,” said Adrienne. “You’re good at your art too, and you will hold yourself up.” Aha! I thought – this is the critical difference. I will lay my own net! I will walk myself down the hill. I will bring a flashlight. And I will fly.