The distance of the leap.

“I’m not the sort of person who leaps.” That line of dialogue from a new play I’m working on, from a speech in which the female character explains how extreme life circumstances led her to take risks she normally wouldn’t, has been running through my mind lately, on a loop. “I’m not the sort of person who leaps.”

I’m not, either. These last few years, as I’ve written about my struggles with grief after the death of my family, as I’ve publicly navigated life and career and relationship changes, as I’ve tried to find solid footing on ground that is ever shifting, a lot of people have called me “brave.” I may be a lot of things, but “brave,” is not one of them. The way I look at it, life gave me two choices: play the hand I was dealt, or quit the game. And quitting was never an option, at least not for me.

Just over a week ago, with a carefully worded letter addressed to my landlord neatly folded inside a stamped envelope, I walked three blocks to my local post office. As I approached the building, walking up Alfred Street into the South Carthay neighborhood that I love, a neighborhood populated with statuesque palms and historic Spanish style houses, a neighborhood I jog through at least once a week, my hands started to sweat. Am I crazy? I thought. Am I really going to give up my apartment? My beautiful little sun-filled bungalow with its laundry room and expansive patio overlooking a perfectly landscaped garden? A place with unparalleled charm, at a price that’s unheard of in L.A.’s skyrocketing rental market? And with awesome, incredible neighbors to boot? I can’t believe I’m doing this, I told myself.

But the truth is, it was time. It was beyond time. As much as I love my apartment, I never expected to stay there for three years. It was always meant to be a stop gap, a place to gather and rebuild and then move on. I will always be grateful for the way that charming little cottage fell into my lap when I needed it the most, for the way that it sheltered me and kept me safe throughout the most difficult phase of my life. But the healing that I needed to do there is done, and now, it’s time to go.

A few days after I mailed the letter to my landlord, I broke the news to some friends at a Sunday afternoon barbecue: I was giving up my apartment at the end of June, moving in with a friend for the summer, and leaving L.A. at the end of August. I would go back to the Pacific Northwest to spend time with family, and from there, I’d head for New York.

“Do you have a place to live out there?”

“No. Not yet.”

“Do you have a job?”

“No. Not yet.”

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I feel a little bit terrified at the prospect of making this change, especially with so much that’s still uncertain. I’m not the sort of person who leaps, remember? But I’m also not the sort of person who buries her head in the sand and ignores what’s obvious, either. The truth is, these last couple years I’ve felt stagnant, both creatively, in terms of the work I want to produce, and personally, in terms of big picture life stuff. I feel the sands shifting through the hourglass at an alarmingly accelerating rate, and I know that unless I change, nothing in my life will change. And I’m not talking about the sort of change that was forced upon me by circumstance these last years – the change that caused people to call me “brave” – but instead, proactive, taking the steering wheel of my own life and pressing my foot to the gas pedal, change.

Sorting through items in my apartment, deciding what to keep, toss, and give away in preparation for a move, I flipped open a favorite book of quotes, Cheryl Strayed’s Brave Enough, and found this:

“We are all at risk of something. Of ending up exactly where we began, of failing to imagine and find and know and actualize who we could be. We all need to jump from here to there. The only difference among us is the distance of the leap.”

We all need to jump from here to there. Even those of us who aren’t accustomed to leaping.

Until next time, friends.

19 thoughts on “The distance of the leap.

  1. It seems like everyone I talk to is in this place. This place of shedding everything that we thought was so important for years, months, even just days ago and now, suddenly, we have an overwhelming need to get rid of everything but what we haven’t made happen. And anything not connected to “that” or that is connected to something that pulls, stops or hinders “that” we must be rid of. I just cleared out a storage unit full of stuff I’ve dragged around, not even consider getting rid of before my Pops died. Suddenly, after paying thousands of dollars I could really use right about now , in storage fees, I pack it up and what I can’t sell has already been donated to the shelter and off I go. To a place that requires me, in no uncertain terms, to pursue my music without excuses. Timing…it’s everything. Now seems to be that time…all best to you on your leap…I hope you land better than you can even dream too!

  2. Your essay raised many of the life issues I’ve faced. Thanks! I’m 72 and I’ve taken what seemed to me to be far too many leaps in my life, some that were good and some that left me bereft. More than once I’ve had a charming little cottage fall into my lap when I needed it the most, and it sheltered me and kept me safe throughout some difficult phase of my life. And here I am again, now, after some years of loss, in a very peaceful charming cottage that literally fell into my lap and has sheltered me well and truly. Over and over during seven decades I’ve had more dry spells than good spells as a writer and an attorney. As of today, though, I’m grateful and strong and give thanks for my life and those who’ve shared it with me.

  3. Well there is always Winnemucca. 🙂

    Don’t any of you even dare tell her there is a Fick n’ Bridge’ or she’ll panic and go six inch heels out the door in a heated cold sweat, and that’s by far an understatement, she’s a tad bit fragile and may abort the entire transcontinental journey.

    ‘Look They don’t make beautiful and great chartered ladies like you anymore. You’re classic’ You’re style, You’re brilliant and awesome all in one package. Sarah you’re star, a Nebulae.

    ‘Dude’ you’re a free spirit, you’ll be fine. If you weren’t already vested in good friends and acquaintances, I would say have a backup plan like a fiancé or a mistress.

    ‘But New York City, millions of immigrants ported to Ellis Island, got their heads shaved and were hosed down; hand stamped’ given a fine pine soap box, the constitution and told good luck.

    ‘You have Friends and acquaintances. Sarah, Lady’ if you back out now, I am going to personally drive down and chauffeur you to New York myself in a 1962 Chevy half -ton step -side pickup truck, I’ll steal one just to see you succeed.

  4. I’m in the process of a leap myself, never quite considered myself a ‘leaper’. I’m happy though, I have friends that are refusing to leap and it’s just sad. They’re life stuck in a hamster wheel when it’s meant to be lived outside the cage. Thanks for the inspiring post, it gives me hope for them and myself. Happy leaping!

  5. My own Life Journey is as tragic as it is adventurous, deaths, births, loves, and everything as epic as ones’ life journey should be…

    ‘You’ll grow stronger in your every breath, as you will in every defeat and in every victory, and accomplishment. Embrace your desires, and change with your unexpected detours, I wish I could further encourage you in telling of my own life’s events and stories, however, I must reserve such things for my Memories, poems and stories. Survive you will, and you will continue to make true and great friends, for how could you not Sarah? Be careful of in whom you solely trust; Live well, sleep well, and invest in good kindred friendships. You can always return homeward once again, if your soul and heart so desire.

  6. You, not brave? Hmmm…I just watched Anne Lamott’s TED talk and the stand out quote for me was, “you must quit comparing your insides to other’s outsides.” Maybe your version of brave doesn’t match up with how you view bravery in others, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. It does. It counts.

  7. I once moved somewhere without a job too. I also travel without a place to stay. And I’m also not the kind of person who leaps. Not at all. In fact I regret everything I never did.

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