Twice in the past three years, as the wheels left the tarmac, the plane took off and so did I.
To a new city, to a new job, a new place, friends, struggles, and adventures–that’s where I was going. The first time, I packed a bag and the day after college graduation, flew out to a new life on the west coast. In the young hours of the morning as my classmates were stumbling back home from celebrating our accomplishments as students, I was waiting for my flight. A quiet, empty departure terminal early in the morning is a place ripe for second guessing and the decision to take a job on the other side of the country was either an accomplishment I should be celebrating too, or a mistake of a severity I hadn’t yet discovered.
The second time was an out-of-the blue offer to take a job at a tech startup in New York City. I had been out west for a year and was just settling in but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. As over the PA, “Flight 132 to Newark International, Final Boarding Call” echoed through the empty terminal, I pulled myself out of the cold and uncomfortable seat to find my place on a one-way flight to a scary new city. Again.
You hear it in different ways. “He’s never been the same since his dad took off.” Or, “Her career really took off when she cracked into the local business development community.” Part of taking off means leaving something behind and if not done right can be really hurtful. But in a lot of ways, to start something new you have to leave things behind. You have to end relationships, sell off belongings that you value, and walk away from the impression you’ve left on people (which you use to identify your personality). But that process creates an experience which will strongly define you.
Sometimes to really take off, you need to take off.
It doesn’t need to be as drastic as packing your life in to a bag and moving to NYC, but many things in our life we hold on to because we’re afraid of taking off and leaving those comforts behind. It’s a combination of our habits, our friends, our homes–the environment we find ourselves in every minute of our life–that are the factors which either help our lives take off and soar or hold us back from what we want to become.
Piece by piece, we are choosing the shape of our lives. We often settle at “good” because the steps to “great” aren’t easy. Being in constant search of great things means walking away from good things. To take off from something doesn’t mean running away and leaving people hurt. And wanting things to take off is not selfish. When set with the right morals, taking off means that you can bring people with you and have a higher platform for which you can help build people up.
There is some risk involved with taking off. You risk leaving behind something great. You risk friendships that you may not find again. You can be risking your reputation and setting yourself up for failure. But in my case, I’ve found that those fears are mostly unfounded. When you go on a new adventure, your family will still be there to support you. Your friends will change over time, but so will you, and it’s more than likely that you’ll both have changed for the better and can still find a place in each other’s lives. As my plane approached Newark Airport, the New York City was reflecting gold in the sun. It was beautiful and daunting. More than anything, fear pulsed through me. I was afraid of what I would become if I couldn’t make it in the Big City. I was scared that if I couldn’t make it here, people’s perception of me would be different and even worse, my perception of myself would fall. That’s the risk but the rewards are even better.
You’ll be fine taking off and more than likely, your life will take off because of what you chose to leave behind in seeking something greater.