In the spring of 2000, I packed up a suitcase and a carry-on bag and I moved to New York City. The population of my hometown was less than 10,000.
I knew exactly one person in NYC. I had $100 and a handful of change in my purse pocket. My grandma cried from the second she woke up that morning to the moment we said goodbye at the gate, convinced I was crazy, that I was making a terrible mistake or both.
It was a hell of a couple of years. I couldn’t figure out the subway system and ended up wandering through Chinatown for hours one day. I got caught in an unexpected rainstorm walking to an interview, the downpour so severe that one of my contact lenses actually flipped itself inside out.
My boyfriend and I woke up one morning and decided to get married at the courthouse on Halloween. I lived across the street from a bodega in the Bronx, on the third floor of an apartment building that housed at least one known drug dealer. I lived through 9/11, literally.
It was the best kind of madness. It made me who I am today.
And it’s not that my grandmother was entirely wrong, either. It was a crazy move, in more ways than one. I had no idea what I was doing. But I knew I wanted out, I wanted more, I wanted to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.
Sometimes, when you give yourself permission to follow your heart, you have to give yourself permission to lose a little bit of your mind, too. The pair only ever work well together with a lot of voluntary give and take.
I had to be OK with the logical side of me side-eyeing the me who made life-changing plans on a whim. And this is only the boldest example I have. There have been hundreds of choices I’ve made in my life that meant sound reason had to take a seat on the back burner for a while.
And you know what? It’s scary every time.
But nobody ever said listening to your heart would be easy. It takes an untold amount of strength to override the DANGER DANGER message you’re getting from your mind when your toes are touching the edge of the cliff.
There’s a quote that’s prevalent on Pinterest, part of a short poem by Erin Hanson:
“What if I fall?”
Oh, but my darling,
what if you fly?
The fact is, your brain is never going to want you to jump. We’ve survived countless centuries by keeping our feet planted firmly on the ground. Our frontal lobes aren’t afraid to let us know when our impulse control is lacking.
But impulsivity isn’t always a bad thing; in fact, sometimes it’s exactly what we need to take that magnificent leap into the unknown. It’s easy to over-think ourselves into oblivion, but where’s the freedom in that? Where’s the fun?
Things might go wrong, it’s true. You might get heartbroken. The job might fall through. Maybe you’ll hate the place you move to. At the end of my adventure, I got divorced and moved back home for a little while. I suppose I could’ve seen that as a failure.
But by the next year, I had fallen madly in love, moved to another country, and embarked on the next beautiful chapter of my life. Sometimes you have to go a little crazy to get to the good stuff.
Sure, you may fall. Still, I think it’s worth asking yourself, every single time, “…but what if I fly?”
Cassie Fox is a writer and photographer. Equal rights and informed choice in everything are hugely important to her, and all of these things together form the backbone for much of her work.