(Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published in error. I am extremely sorry if you read that incoherent rough draft or received this post in duplicate. You can read my explanation in “My Apologies for Errant Blog Post.”)
I established myself as a bit of risk taker early in life. At age three, I stood in my new swim teacher’s back yard gazing at his pool. I could barely control my excitement about my first swimming lesson.
As soon as we completed introductions, I pointed at the diving board and declared, “I want to jump off that.”
My mom replied, “No, Kim. We’re gonna start in the shallow end.”
Thankfully, my teacher spoke up. He assured her that I’d be fine. He’d be in the pool treading water, waiting to pull me up. She relented.
I skipped to the diving board, climbed up and took a running leap.
Oh to be young! That unadulterated euphoria from my first plunge into the deep end remains clear 30+ years later, and it’s a feeling that I’ve repeatedly tried to duplicate.
But let’s get real. Jumping off the diving board when you don’t know how to swim is a pretty stupid idea. So as I grew older, I worked to curb my somewhat reckless fearlessness into responsible choices. I improved at evaluating risks and rewards, but I still acted impulsively occasionally.
Then, in my late-20s, I faced a difficult risk-reward dilemma. I was under contract at the news station where I worked, and that contract was set to expire soon. I needed to either re-sign for another year or find a new job. I opted for the latter.
That decision made, I focused on the next. Should I stay living in Northern Maine, move somewhere completely new, or relocate back to Florida to be closer to family? Rising concerns over my mother’s health became the deciding factor to that question. Now, I just needed someone to hire me.
I’d landed my current position when I lived in Florida. How hard could it be to do the reverse? Answer: extremely.
Don’t get me wrong. I got plenty of calls and completed many a phone interview. The stumbling block came when I progressed to round two. All of the companies wanted to meet me in person, none of them had budget to fly me in for an interview, and I didn’t have enough money to pay for multiple flights on my own.
So I wasn’t too surprised when the same issue came up after I applied for an opening with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC). The initial phone interview and online writing test went well. My would-be boss invited me to come in for a second interview. I tried to convince him to allow me to complete it by phone, but he wouldn’t budge. Ugh!
That was when I came to the conclusion that the only way I could secure a job in that region was to pack up and move. But the idea of quitting without having another position lined up was crazy, right? Yet, Mr. FWCC definitely seemed interested in hiring me. Perhaps it was worth the gamble? He had said to call him if I changed my mind and decided to travel to Florida.
After a week of over analyzing the pros and cons, my gut told me that I could get this job. So I made a metaphorical jump back into the deep end by turning in my notice without a job offer in hand. My exhilaration over my decision evaporated that afternoon when I reached out to Mr. FWCC to let him know I could be down there in a few weeks.
“I’m so sorry, Kim, but I filled the opening yesterday. I wish you’d called me sooner.”
Oh shit! What had I just done?
“Ummmm, well, thank you for considering me. Let me know if anything else opens up,” I exclaimed in the high-pitched tone my voice gets when I’m faking cheerfulness.
I quelled my panic long enough to get off the phone gracefully and then hyperventilated. Calmness came about 10 minutes later. Clearly, I’d made a misstep by not calling him before quitting, but there was no going back now. Time to pack.
The actual move back south was an adventure for me and my sister, who came up to help. We raced several tropical storms and other impediments (check out Hooker or Hillbilly: You Decide). But midway down, I received a call from Mr. FWCC. Apparently, the woman who’d accepted the job had abruptly left.
“Would you still like to come in and interview?
Two days later I sat in his office, and after 10 minutes of chatting, he hired me.
This bizarre series of events reinforced my belief that, while we all need to grow up, sometimes we still need to embrace our childlike fearlessness and simply take the leap!
How about you? Have you made a similar “crazy” decision? And did it work out for you?
(This post is one of 30 30-somethings I’ll be writing for the weekly countdown to my 40th birthday. Celebrate with me as I share other lessons or humbling experiences from the past decade.)