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Taking A Leap In The Dark

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The name that I've used for my personal blog, "Leap In The Dark", was chosen for one reason, but as it happens, it's turned out to be much more relevant to my life than I ever could have known. When I chose the name it was because of its connotations for creativity — not being afraid to take risks and not letting fear of failure prevent me from doing something.

That was all very well and good, and has stood me in good stead, reminding me not to be complacent with my writing, to fear looking like a fool, or to worry about what other people thought, and most especially not to worry about change.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the Tarot, but one of the cards depicts a man, usually dressed sort of like a beggar with a hobo's stick and bundle over one shoulder, his head in the air, not looking at where he's going, and one foot is on the verge of going over a cliff. He's known as The Fool in the more traditional decks and I'm sure there are all sorts of interpretations that are attached to his appearance, but I've always been attracted to the card and taken it as a sort of personal talisman.

He might look like he doesn't know where he's going and is heading for the proverbial fall, and I'm sure more than one person has looked at me with the same thoughts in mind, but to me he has always typified the ultimate in living life in the moment and not fearing for the future. He's not afraid where his foot is going to land, having supreme confidence that whatever he does will be the right thing to do.

That doesn't necessarily mean that what happens is going to be nice or particularly pleasant, but it is what needs to happen. In some ways there's a type of blind optimism that everything will work out for the best. I won't deny that element exists, and that can get a fool in trouble if he isn't careful. But the times they do happen are when he loses track of who he is and tries to be what other people what him to be.

You can't step blindly forward into your future when you are trying to fulfill somebody else's vision of who you are, because you don't really know what it is you're trying to be, and it's not who you really want to be in the first place. Of course, you don't need anybody else's help in getting confused about your direction; we're all capable of doing that well enough on our own.

Unfortunately, those are the truly terrifying times because you can wander lost for ages and not know it before it's almost too late. There are so many things that can distract you from your own goals that you could possibly live your whole life very unhappy without ever understanding why. For a lot of people, it expresses itself in what we love to call a middle age crisis, when a man or woman will seemingly lose his or her mind and try to regain their youth in the arms of a younger person or a sports car.

If they were to stop and think about it, they'd realize that it wasn't their youth they were trying to regain, but the missed opportunities to do what they wanted to do, or be who they wanted to be. According to the rules we are all supposed to live by we must surrender ourselves to follow the path that's been laid out to keep the wheels turning over.

Otherwise known as growing up or accepting responsibility, you can be assured that for must of us it will involve giving up a part of ourselves. Any time you do that you lessen your chances of living life the way you would have chosen if you kept all your options open. The more that happens the more chance you have of being one of those unhappy people who feel the need to blow up at mid-life.

When you end up that lost and confused, you lash out in a desperate attempt to find your way back to where you started. Instead, by that time most of us have forgotten how to live and are lost without a map leading us back to where we should have been. It's only if you have the courage to stop completely and look at yourself dispassionately that you can find a way home.

Every time we consider making any change in our lives, no matter how small, takes a degree of courage, because it always involves a step into the unknown. Deciding to change your life takes more then just a step; it's a leap – a leap into the unknown – a leap in the dark.

If you've ever seen a high wire act when the person walks along the wire suspended hundreds of feet in the air, and watched them take the net away and felt that sensation in the pit of your stomach that's part fear and part excitement, then you have a good idea what's it like to consciously change your life. Even if it's to change from being the victim of an abuser, to stop using drugs and alcohol, or any other change for the better, there is fear involved because it is going where you've never been before.

No matter how horrible it is, the familiar is at least a known and there is a degree of comfort that can be drawn from that fact. It's why so many people don't leave their abuser — not for fear of retaliation, but for fear of the new. Not knowing what the future holds is scarier to most people then the fear they have in the present.

Living is a terrifying experience and it's very easy to give in to the fear and not live at all. It so much easier not to feel at all than risk being hurt, so much easier to do nothing than risk being a failure, and so much easier to continue on the safe path of the familiar and not change. So why change at all, why take that risky step off the cliff into the unknown?

Not being able to speak for anybody else, or feel like I have the right to tell anybody else what to do, all I can do is tell you what guided my choice. I needed to leave behind old habits and ways of being that were governed by what happened to me in the past. It meant surrendering all the coping mechanisms that had kept me safe from hurt and stopped me from feeling. It also meant having to deal with all the reasons why I had developed all those habits.

Once I made the choice I felt like I was free for the first time in my life. Of course there were moments of absolute fear, depression, and feeling completely lost. There are times when I'm still beset by doubts, but each time those moments last for shorter and shorter periods. But the thing is, all of these moments were mine and weren't governed by anyone else or their perceptions of how I should be. I was free of my past and free to choose my own path and I was and am still willing to risk a little pain as the price I need to pay.

Taking the first step off the cliff is always the hardest, after that gravity takes over and it becomes easier. It may sound like a joke and I guess it is somewhat, but in all seriousness there is a momentum that builds when you take the decision that works just like gravity and you aren't able to stop the process whether you want to or not.

Now when I look at the title of my blog, "Leap In The Dark", not only does it remind me to take risks creatively, but it also helps me to remember to keep moving forward no matter what I think I fear, or think will happen to me. I long ago reached the decision that I'd rather feel something uncomfortable than feel nothing at all, because what's life if you don't feel?

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site He has been writing for since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.