I find myself perched at the edge of a cliff. Seems like I’ve been here before. Not this overhang, but one similar. A few moments ago, I stood here, at the summit, wind in my hair, trying to peer through the dense fog – in the hope that I can finally see what lies below. And then I asked myself: at what age does one stop leaping off cliffs?
Thinking back to those other cliffs, there are many ways to disembark. There were a few times where I was abruptly pushed. Other times I was nudged. And at least on one of those occasions, I grabbed on to a ledge and attempted to claw my way back onto the ledge. Surprisingly, despite these rough starts, I didn’t get too scratched and bruised on the way down. Often the landing was surprisingly soft, and I would find myself in a much better place. Then there were those other times that I leaped off the precipice, head back, laughing all the way. Whether pushed or not, over time I’ve developed a fine set of wings.
Part of me saw this latest cliff coming, but another part of me was in denial. You see, I was distracted. I was dreaming of building a glider, ready to leap again, so I didn’t see the shadow approaching. That glider isn’t anywhere near ready, so it won’t help me. You see, once again, I’ve been pushed to the edge of a big drop. In four days time I may be without an income. Like many writers, I rely on a day-job to pay the bills. And there are other, non-monetary reasons that working outside of the house is good for writers, so I need that job on a few levels. However, recently there have been dramatic political changes, which has resulted in financial uncertainty for many Australians. Workplaces are downsizing, continued government funding of community programs is unconfirmed and consumer confidence is low. Many are waiting to hear if they will still have a job after this week, next month, or next year. These last few weeks of waiting have been really hard. Thus, I find myself on a cliff, once again.
I remember a Summer’s day many years ago. It was new years day, and I was down the beach with my children and some friends. On that day, I stood on an actual cliff. And I jumped into the sea – repetitively. Perhaps I was a tad old for such reckless behaviour, being in my mid-thirties and sole-parent to three, but it felt so empowering. That day, that moment, I felt as if anything was possible. Which is a good omen for the beginning of a new year. Anyway, having watched me from the sand, the kids decided to follow me up that hill. Once at the top, we peered down together. I looked down, confident that I have the capacity to safely land from such a height, and knowing how good it felt to leap into the air. The children looked down with some fear, and perhaps a little bit of admiration for their mother. I asked if any of them would like to try it. Now this may sound foolish, as they were so young and not yet strong swimmers, but I have never been a conventional parent.
I wasn’t foolish, either. I took it as an opportunity to teach them how to calculate risks, feel the fear, and then do it anyway. First I showed them how to look around, find potential hazards such as rocks or shallow water. Then I told them how to safely leap. I suggested that I jump first, promising to catch them if they struggled in the water. Lastly, I told them that it was okay not to jump, that going back on the path they had climbed up was also a good way to get to the bottom. After some hesitation, two jumped, one after the other. The joy on their faces made me laugh, startling strangers on the beach. They both had a small moment of panic when they found themselves in the water, but I helped them to the shore, all the while feeling proud of their achievement. I’m yet to know if showing them how to leap into the unknown has given them transferable coping skills. I hope so. I know I still go by the mantra that you need to be aware of what might go wrong, feel the fear, but jump anyway.
To be honest, I like jumping off metaphorical cliffs. It makes me feel alive. It allows me to see things differently. It gets me back on my life-journey when I’ve become inert. However, unemployment wasn’t the cliff I was planning on jumping off next. I had been envisioning a tiny cliff – an adventure in the form of an epic road-trip. I was supposed to be preparing to travel a 3,300 kms return trip, to the centre of Australia with friends, to celebrate us all turning 50 by watching the sun rise over Uluru. It has been a dream of mine for a while, and they all wanted to do it too. Well, looks like they’re going and I’m not. Thanks to not knowing if I’ll still have a job, I can’t afford to splurge on such an adventure at this point in time.
So I’m standing alone, on a different cliff then my friends. In four days I may be unemployed and facing dire financial challenges. I’ve already done some basic planning to minimise risks, and I’m ready to put these plans into action. This will ensure that I don’t risk losing my house. It may be some time before I am stable again, but I need to get some sort of income happening really quickly. I also need to prepare myself to wave bon voyage to my friends, and not feel too down that I won’t be joining them.
Then again – there is still four days until I’m potentially out of work. And there is still fourteen days before my friends leave. Anything can happen in that time. As I’m such an expert at leaping into the unknown, if there is a way off this cliff, I’ll find it. Stay tuned for an update – perhaps from somewhere on the side of a dusty road, in the heart of Australia.