My whole body was shaking. My fingers were numb, my wet clothes chilling me to the bone. I sat with my legs dangling over the edge of a rock face, staring down about 20 feet to a swirling pool of icy water beneath.
“You got it!” Several of my friends down below were pushed up against the side of the pool, egging me on.
Um, ya, I don’t think so. I kept picturing the air getting pulled from my lugs, my body floundering under the water for long seconds.
My friend Josh was right behind me, shivering and uncomfortable.
“On the count of three,” he said. I scooted back and pulled my knees to my chest.
“I’m not ready. Nope. Not ready.” Frantically, I was trying to fill myself up with enough courage to pull this off. My soggy self-talk was failing.
I had successfully convinced myself to jump five times before this. My friends and I had decided that afternoon to brave Cascade Falls, seven small waterfalls all in conjunction. Once you jump the first, you cannot turn back. I had so much confidence with the first jump, so much stamina. Yet by six, it was starting to sink in how miserable I was.
A few more cheers and I swung my legs back over the cliff edge again, my head a string of cuss words and self-pity. Thirty seconds passed slowly. Finally Josh called my name again.
“Meagan—I am COLD. I am WET. And we are just two waterfalls away. You have to jump NOW.”
If I waiting any longer, he likely would have pushed me. So I clenched my hands, tried not to think about how far down it was, and dropped off the edge.
The past years of my life have been chalked full of “not ready’s”.
Graduating from high school is kind of like that first waterfall—there is so much excitement for all that life could bring that it’s hard to realize the danger and permanence involved. But after that first initial leap, each plunge into life’s transitions has been harder, scarier, and less certain.
Being homesick and alone? I wasn’t ready for that.
Changing what I want to do with my life? I wasn’t ready for that.
Quitting my college basketball career?
The first big break up?
My best friend moving to the other side of the globe?
I wasn’t ready for any of that.
Right now, your plans are evolving. People are falling in and out of your life. Family members are drawing closer to you and becoming more estranged. Your major or career is shifting. Someone is making or breaking your heart.
It’s called change—one of the scariest words in the English language.
Even though I had already jumped several intimidating waterfalls that afternoon, it didn’t amend the fact that six was still scarier than any before it. I thought that maybe I would get used to it by then. First the leap, then the sense of falling, then the pain and discomfort of freezing river water, then air, then swimming, then exhilarating joy after the fact. But every single one was still different, still took me time to prepare myself.
Change does not get easier. No matter big or small, or even if it’s good change, it can be strange, uncomfortable, and new. That is why the number one emotion I feel these days—and you likely do as well—is panic.
Panic that change will come, and I won’t ever really be ready.
I have often had fantasies during good periods of life that things could just stay like that.
When I signed to play basketball at my college on scholarship, I imagined I would play a lot and we would win a lot of games. When I met my best friend as a freshman and we became roommates, I imagined that she would always be by my side. When I started writing for others, I thought the words would always come out right. I thought my family would always get along, my future would always be clear, and things would go according to plan.
Sometimes, the good or stable times last for a while. But eventually, circumstances demand movement. And movement sucks.
The favorite question is why. Why did my future have to shatter? Why did a friend or family member have to walk out on me? Why did I have to lose my feelings for somebody, and have to tell them goodbye?
Why did I have to end up here when back there was so much better?
In the middle of a transition, all we can think about is the stress. We have taken the jump, experienced the fall, and now we are underwater and feeling like we are drowning. It’s overwhelming, because nothing is familiar. It’s terrifying, because the solution is not in sight. It’s painful, because whether we see it or not, we ourselves are changing along with our circumstances.
And we have to wait. Long, sometimes excruciating, periods of time as the change in our lives produces an end result in us and we burst through the surface and see the bigger picture.
There are very few times we can look back at the changes we have been through and thought to ourselves—that was easy. That was fun. As human beings, we simply don’t operate like that. We love our comforts, our stability, the things that we know and understand, and the things we can control.
Change is none of those things. Change requires us to be uncomfortable, often unstable, take on new tasks we don’t get or deal with people who are strangers, and it happens so quickly and unexpectedly, we almost never are in the driver’s seat of what happens next.
Having to quit basketball a year early was ugly. My best friend moving to the Philippines has hit me hard. Re-evaluating the direction of my life has torn me up, robbed me of sleep, and freaked me out.
But without those changes, there never would have been progress. New doors never would have opened. I never would have been forced to make big decisions, break out of my comfort zone, or become a stronger human being.
Jumping leads to discomfort, then exhilaration at just how far you have come.[clickToTweet tweet=”Jumping leads to discomfort, then exhilaration at just how far you have come.” quote=”Jumping leads to discomfort, then exhilaration at just how far you have come.”]
A friendship lost or relationship severed means you get to make a new one. Rejection means you seek out new avenues. Failure means you get stronger at what you aren’t good at yet. A new city, a new job, a new beginning means you get to move forward.
That’s the big picture. Today may be harder than yesterday. But coming out the other side, you will see just how different—and better—change has molded you to become.