The Big Leap

September 7, 2018

rise and improvement concept

Right now, I am in a season of transition. 

Transitions are not new creatures to visit my life. I’ve had a good number of them before and I expect to have them consistently join me as companions in the years to come. I’m also not the type of person who does everything possible to avoid transition and change. I realize that some people are made to do that; I’m not one of them. I often love and welcome change- even hard ones. I have grown to accept it… even if it’s difficult and ugly or joyful and wonderful. Maybe its maturity (finally!) or perhaps it cynicism or maybe just a healthy dose of both, but I kind of feel that transitions come regardless of what I do or don’t do, and there’s no point in me trying to avoid them.

So right now, I find myself thrust into transition. And I’m surprised at the depths of emotions I feel about this particular change. As I have been reflecting on my current situation, I realize that part of what is making this change more difficult is that it came rather quickly– yet not unexpectedly… which is a strange combination to sort out in my mind.

This particular change which I am navigating calls out a deeper reflection than ever before, because I’m not just stepping into a new version of the same thing I’ve always been or done. Instead, this transition has me stepping into a completely new experience that is not a different “model” of the same job.

Let me try to explain:

I have worked in the same sort of field for much of my entire adulthood. I started in “religious nonprofits” (also known as the church) and then left that work and began my own business working with- you guessed it- nonprofits and their leadership. Then my role at a local nonprofit here in town landed in my lap, and I’ve been there for 10 months doing some of the most life-transforming work ever in an environment that was equal parts beautiful and painful, exhiliarating and defeating, joyful and frustating, and I have loved so much of it. I am immensely proud of the work I have gotten to do there.

And yet… transition has come, and I am moving on from this nonprofit. But for the first time in my adulthood, I’m moving on into a market I’ve never worked in during my career. I’m moving into the corporate/business sector. For a long time, I convinced myself that the strengths and skills I had would never translate into “business.” So I naturally told myself that I would always be in the nonprofit or religious market– even though I knew there was no real advancement possibility in it. My skills are strong– I know this–but they are so broad that I could do 4-5 different careers, and I’ve come to learn that it’s sometimes better to be specialized in one direction than to be broad in many directions. Yet I stayed with what I knew, what felt safe, what was easier and natural for me. Even when it no longer worked for me.

But the longings of the heart betray us. I longed for more than what I was doing. I longed for work that gave me wider opportunity for leadership, creativity, responsibility, relationship, and direction. I longed for a place where I could be and become more. A place where I could grow beyond myself– find other challenges and exceed them, learn something new, lead more fully, offer my gifts more deliberately, do something different. While inundated with tasks that certainly provided a (much too big) workload, they were tasks that didn’t expand my mind, heart, or spirit. I had quickly outgrown my position and my workplace’s culture, environment, and potential. I still loved my nonprofit, but there was no more space for me to become what my soul was nudging me to become. Yet, whenever I tried to create more room to grow, more definition to a role that would lead toward a future, more profit out of my work, more tasks that fed my mind and soul, I kept finding myself blocked. The answer was always “no.”

So I convinced myself to be happy in the role I had, and that worked for awhile- because there IS much to be joyful for in so many different circumstances— but the things that exist in our souls are not easily quieted. The more we try to ignore them, the more our longings wake us at 3 am. The more we try to put ourselves into roles that don’t fit us anymore, the more our inner dialogue grows in vocabulary. So it wasn’t long before I was forced to confront the growing agony in my spirit, and as I paid attention to that longing, it began to dawn on me that where I was in my career would never let me become anything other than what I was right now. It wasn’t my fault or the career’s fault. It’s just… reality. I still loved- and love- nonprofit work. I still loved- and love- my teammates. I still loved- and love- much of the work I did. But like a slow morning sunrise, I grew to realize that there was no more space for me for fill that created the meaning I needed, no place for me to learn or expand in a direction that would make me a better me.  

So I leapt. I leapt the big leap.

I can pinpoint specific and clear moments along the way leading up to the big leap that I realize only now were lights that lined the path, like the lights along the floor of a plane that the flight attendants tell you to look for should your flight go down. Those moments were warnings that there would come a time when the Small Voice inside me that patiently tolerates my particular form of craziness would finally lift her head and firmly say to me, “NOW, now is the time to go!” and then give me a hard stare, cross her arms, and wait for me to summon up the courage to make my feet leave the earth and feel the sense of flying/falling in a massive jump. 

To take the big leap is so scary. But you know what is even scarier? Staying where you are when it’s no longer working for you. Staying where you are when it’s clear that place won’t work with your trajectory of growth. Staying where you are when it no longer fits your potential. If you stay, you take up a space someone new may need for their personal growth. If you stay, you miss the chance to give all of who you are to the world. 

But it’s a jump. And while it’s scarier to stay put, there’s no small amount of fear about what I’m doing. I’m a little scared… no, I’m terrified… that’s the better word for it. 

But I’m also awed. Because this transition took so little time. It was as if the moment I said (on the afternoon of July 27th, 2018) “Now is the time to jump,” the Power that surrounds me caught me up, honored my trust, and responded with a resounding “Yes, child, yes!” And with the click of a link sending my resume out into the universe, it was only days later that someone saw me, caught me, and crooned the same tune, “Yes, child, yes,” offering me an opportunity I could not turn down. 

And that’s the thing. Sometimes, when we jump, we are caught. Maybe often. Sure, there are times we crash hard. Those crashes are difficult, painful even, and yet some of those crashes are absolutely the best thing that could happen to us because they teach us who we are– and who we are not.

But the other times, the times we don’t crash, those are the times we are caught by someone or something else. And the hope is that whenever we are caught by hands that love us, they will propel us back upward, helping become all that we are meant to become. 

The other day in a moment of paralyzing fear about this change, I texted a friend: “What if I fail?” He texted back, “But sweetheart, what if you fly?” Caught by hands that love us. Caught by opportunities that only open to us if we jump. Caught by those voices that say “yes, child, yes” with us. 

However, I am finding this transition hard. In part because it means an end to the goals of my young adulthood in the nonprofit and religious nonprofit fields. But I didn’t even need to worry about that, because the great gift of this new opportunity, while very different from the experiences and roles I have always had, does still include (and emphasize) my love for making the community better with this business’s heavy involvement in philanthropy that has been truly (and verifiably) impacting this community for years. I still get to be part of changing people’s lives, only in a larger and deeper way. The hands that caught me when I jumped knew of my heart’s deepest passion and created a job that allows me to meld together service to others, my strengths and gifts, my desire for challenge and growth, and the chance to live into my fullest potential with the interest, support and care of the leadership.

I’m completely ready and completely unprepared at the same time. And that is equally thrilling and terrifying.

So I’m spending a lot of time reflecting on what it means to finish well, to leap big, to forgive the warning lights that led this change, to embrace the things that open up in times of transition, to worry about the relationships I might lose, to welcome the relationships I might gain, and to learn again what it means to live life fearless and thankful, loving and fierce, boldly and curiously walking where the path before me goes.

***Future posts on this will most likely include:
      …how to avoid begin bitter about the hard moments that lead to transitions…
            …how to hold lightly and hug tightly the seasons you are given…
                  …how to leave people better than you found them…
                        …how to hear the voices that matter when thinking about transitioning…
Trust me, imma’ figure out how to word that stuff and come back to you with it!***

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