What to do when you don’t know what to do
Jump then Fall is the title of one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs. It tells a different sort of story, but expresses the same sentiment as the one I’m interested in- jumping into an opportunity that you’re curious about, and figuring out what exactly you’re doing as you go.
Jumping then falling is exactly what it sounds like: forcing yourself to jump off a metaphorical cliff by making a sudden, spontaneous decision, before taking the time to calculate your actions. As an avid and self-proclaimed lover of planning, jumping then falling has always been something that I’ve been scared to do until now. What changed my outlook was finally realizing that life is a lot more worthwhile if I choose to be excited about my next steps instead of being too scared to take them at all.
It’s natural to have expectations for how any decision might turn out. As someone who tends to overthink everything, it is hard not to spend time calculating every possible outcome. Usually, this results in me convincing myself that the risk I want to take is a bad idea- I’m bound to get hurt. In that moment it seems more likely to me that the worst rather than the best will turn out to be true.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about taking risks, in the sense that I’ve decided to try many things I previously couldn’t even imagine myself doing: from taking self-defense and kickboxing classes to thinking about pursuing a career in law, I’ve realized that if I don’t dive into the things that I’m interested in, I’ll have to spend the rest of my life wondering what could have happened if I hadn’t let my fears and doubts stopped me.
Jumping off of a cliff, even a metaphorical one, is a reckless thing to do. I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea to be a little bit cautious. But what is it really such a bad thing to put yourself in vulnerable situations? Why is encountering trouble such a big fear that we have if we only learn how to problem-solve by solving problems in the first place? The thing about choosing to fall off of a cliff is that when you do, you no longer have the chance to think about what would happen if you failed, or if things didn’t work out the way that you wanted them to. You can only plan out your next steps and learn to work with what you have.
The lessons I’m learning about letting go of my fears reminded me of an instance described in one of my favorite books, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of American Psyche (2010). Author Ethan Watters describes the American obsession with self-control of experience while illustrating how Schizophrenia is dealt with in Zanzibar. Watters worked with Mental Health Professional Juli McGruder, who detailed more about this obsession while discussing how Americans react to schizophrenics:
“When humans do not assume they have… complete control of their experience they do not so deeply fear those who appear to have lost it” (158-9).
McGruder reminds us that not all of us are lucky enough to choose our risks; we aren’t even afforded the opportunity of feeling too afraid to take them. The reality is that nothing and no one truly has control over the way life goes- except for God or another higher power, if you put your faith in one. No one ever has 100% control over the way their life turns out. Life can throw any number of surprises in our paths and dampen our plans as it pleases, and sometimes we are forced to jump and fall into risky situations and deal with them anyways.
This example really made me reflect on the way I make decisions- instead of spending an overwhelming amount of time choosing the risks that I take and planning out my steps, why not just realize that in the end, I’m going to have to deal with life as it happens?
So in the end, if you have been given the ability to choose the risks you take, and you have the opportunity to take risks that could be good for you, do it– dive into your opportunities and don’t look back. You are alone in the fall, and if you decide to look at every step of your path as a step towards success, including the pitfalls, you will find a way to work things out.