Jumping Without a Safety Net

20 Feb

Living life as an expat has so many challenges, and one of the cardinal rules I’ve learned that has served me quite well is simply this: jump, and the net will appear.

It sounds so naive and so reckless, and yet, part of living abroad for me is a continual risk, in the sense that life is uncertain, and trying to pretend that everything is going to fall into place perfectly in the “five year plan” for me is just an illusion.

Let me get esoteric on you here.

Take a look at this image:

This is a Tarot card; this card is the first in the deck: “The Fool.”

He is the perfect example of “jump and the net will appear.” (A quote attributed to John Burroughs)

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, and sometimes, being foolish brings the biggest rewards.

My move to Rome back in 2001 was an act of “foolishness” that has led me down so many various and exciting paths, and brought so many wonderful people into my life, and has asked me time and time again to just walk off that cliff and wait for the invisible net to appear. The archetypical “fool’s journey” represented by the tarot also for me reflects what it’s like to jump into life in a foreign country and make your way through the unknown to eventually come out the other side somewhere, only to then start all over again!

Why do I bother to post this at all? Because I find time and again that articles like my BFF blogger buddy Sara’s recent “Stop Sabotaging Your Own Success: A Manifesto” always seem to resonate with so many people who want to take a chance, but for some reason just hang on the edge of that cliff. As of today, 195 commenters and many, many “likes” and shares attest to the fact that we can take heart that we’re not alone when we want to take a risk but need a push, or feel afraid.

I was recently reading this biography of Albert Einstein, and was pleasantly reassured when I saw that he had tried for so many job openings prior to getting hired at the Swiss Patent Office (and even then only through a close personal connection), that he actually had to take an ad out in a newspaper offering his services as a math and physics tutor:

Sometimes we have to be less black and white about things, and about life in general. The only thing that is certain is that everything changes. Finding a way to balance a scientific and rational view of the world with a more open, curious, child-like and mysterious view of the world, for me has become a tricky but effective combination necessary for a *usually* successful life as an expat. The bottom line is, it’s never too late. And we are often our own worst enemies.

Cultivating faith in life and in the fact that no matter what happens, happens for a reason, has often helped me to get through days where I wondered what the heck I was doing here. And it applies not only to expat life, but to life anywhere, at any time. When your heart is calling, leap, and the net will appear. And most of all, take other people’s opinions into account, but then go with what you feel in your gut is the right thing to do. We give way too little weight and value to our inner intuition and I think that cultivating intuition is one of life’s great gifts, and something we all have hidden deep down.

Years ago I wrote a post about my expat experience, called Bread and Tulips, and I realize now that as I raise three (!!) little half-Roman half-Americans, I’m kind of starting that journey all over again. It’s a 34 year old viewing Rome again with the eyes of that 24 year old who first came here nearly 11 years ago and met her future husband, father of her kids, and future ex, all on day one! Life has its ups and downs. Cultivating faith that in the end, that net is going to be there, is one way of finding trust in life and trust in the bigger order of things.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
― Pema Chödrön


16 Responses to “Jumping Without a Safety Net”

  1. Tiffany Parks February 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    This is wonderful! I can so relate! I agree completely but it is nice to be reminded every once in a while: thank you!

  2. Kerry February 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Always great posts Shelley!! I really needed to hear this today. Thanks xo Aunt Kerry

  3. Un'americana a Roma February 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Aw, that’s sweet! Thanks for reading and yes I agree we can never get too much reminding of these points.

  4. Un'americana a Roma February 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Missing you and we need to catch up soon, Skype anytime. ❤

  5. Sam Marasco February 21, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    What you say, is so true, thanks & regards.
    Sam. Melb. Australia.

  6. Un'americana a Roma February 21, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    Oh, thank you for your support. It’s something I’m trying to remind myself of. ❤

  7. loquensmachina February 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, and always enjoy it (thanks for that, by the way!), but I have to say, this post really resonates with me. This advice is relevant for absolutely everyone. As it happens, the reason I read your blog (and other blogs about Rome/expats) is because frankly I can’t shake the feeling that I owe it to myself to at least try living there someday. I somehow convince myself that I’m doing research on the matter. But this kind of research can go on forever. I have to just go for it. I’m on a long-term “someday I’ll get there” track, doing exactly what you’ve hinted at: overplanning, overpreparing, feeling like I can’t just show up and make it, trying to carve out a safe niche for myself before I even get there. That’s never going to work. I’m already 30 and have wanted to move there since I first visited ten years ago. I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful guy who is willing to go just about anywhere, but all the details make it feel overwhelming, and risky. I’m inspired by your brave attitude and courage, and wish you the very best! Thanks for the pep talk — this stranger really appreciated it!

  8. Un'americana a Roma February 21, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    I totally relate. Rome, once it gets into your head and won’t go away… well, you’ll end up here eventually most likely. 😉 I always tell people, hey, what’s the worst that can happen? So you try, it doesn’t work out, and you go back to where you came from, with a bunch of new experiences and new memories? And that’s the worst-case scenario? What’s there to lose? Honestly, you only live once, right. In bocca al lupo! (good luck)

  9. loquensmachina February 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Thanks, and you’re so right. The worst thing is regret — taking a risk is almost a reward in itself!

  10. Un'americana a Roma February 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    Most of my major life decisions have been put into action only because I imagine myself on my proverbial “death bed” thinking “What if I had only tried…” and I don’t want to have THAT conversation with myself!!!

  11. sognid'oro February 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    so inspirational! I have been struggling for a long time on the exact topic of “do I move to Italy?”. Sometimes you really need to just go with your gut. I have an Italian boyfriend that moved to the States for me and is not too happy here. Sometimes I think about jumping on a plane and making the move. But leaving family and the so-called amazing opportunities that the US provides, makes it very hard for me. So glad to see you find peace in your decisions.

    P.S. I adore your blog! I read and then dream (and wish!) I could be brave enough to pick up and go.

  12. Aimee March 1, 2012 at 1:52 am #

    So, so true, dear cousin! The thought that everything happens for a reason–even if you don’t know what the reason is at that precise moment–is such a powerfully comforting philosophy. And, as you note, the only thing constant is change; by living each moment and appreciating the moment, we truly live.

  13. Chloe March 3, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    Just stumbled upon this; great post! I recently moved abroad as well and have begun to view it just the way you describe. It’s not easy but once you get there, you feel great. All the best for your future!

    – A fellow expat 🙂


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