“When a man looks into the abyss, there’s nothing looking back at him. This is where man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” — “Lou Mannheim,” in Wall Street
“I need you to jump off a cliff for me.” — “President Bartlett” to “C.J. Cregg,” in The West Wing
On April 27, 1988, I took a giant leap. I reported for a physical, signed a few papers, raised my right hand, and swore to defend the constitution against all enemies. By that evening, I had enlisted in the United States Air Force.
I had no idea where I was headed, or what I would be doing once I got there. I simply believed it was the right move for that time. And you know what? It worked out just fine.
On May 3, 1995, I leapt again. This time I raised my right hand, swore and oath, and was handed the badge that allows me to serve as a police officer for the City of St. Louis. Once again, I had no idea what awaited me once I took the leap. But I believed it would work out. Nearly a quarter of a century later, I have been proven right. For the most part, anyway.
There have been other leaps since then, large and small. Most have worked out. Some haven’t. But what is success without the possibility of failure? What is education without a few lessons learned? This is life. Everyone goes through it. I am no exception.
On July 1, 2020, I intend to take what may arguably be the greatest, blindest leap of my life. I intend to retire from the police department, and embrace a life based primarily in book writing and journalism. To call this particular leap “terrifying” might be underselling it just a bit. Still, the time has come to break free of the familiar and once again embrace the unknown.
It’s hard to take a leap of faith after a quarter century of relative stability. Cops may piss and moan about “911” calls and the people who cause them, but we also embrace that behavior, because it represents job security. Rare is the day “layoffs” are discussed around the station. If anything, we gripe about being continually short-handed. But it’s about time to leave this work to the next generation, many of whom I’m training.
The Air Force was my leap into adulthood. The police department was my leap into a career. Now it’s time to leap into my passion.
As I get older, the concept of taking a blind leap gets more and more terrifying, but the leap also feels more and more necessary. More than once, a friend of mine has scolded me, saying, “Quit fretting over it and just do it!” I’ve come to think of him as a real world Sterling Archer, my favorite animated spy. Archer never reads his mission dossiers. He just does what he does, assuming it’ll all work out in the end. And of course, it always does. I’m not programmed that way. I have to be prepared for the unexpected.
Still, this is most likely the time to stop fretting and take the leap.
Most everyone I know is pushing me in this new direction. “Quit wasting time here,” they tell me. “Go follow your passion!” The few who don’t grasp it and ask me why I would want to do such a thing hear me say, “Because that’s where I belong. That’s who I am. That’s what I should be doing.” That tells me a great deal right there.
There’s not much money in my chosen future. Then again, my career choices make it clear that money has never been my true motivation. That being said, I have a plan in place that should keep my day-to-day expenses to a minimum, and my major needs will be paid for in full before I even move. Otherwise, this whole aspiration is rendered moot.
It’s not exactly an abyss, but there is definitely character to be found here. Nobody gets what they truly want without taking a risk. I need to jump off a cliff. If I take the necessary steps prior, my next life will completely cushion my landing.
The desire is there. The pieces are falling into place. Chances are, things will work out just fine.
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As long as you’ve packed your parachute (and I’m sure you have) the next jump will turn out just fine. Who knows, you may soar off into the clouds.
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