It Can’t Rain All the Time

The allegory of Dumbo and his Magic Crow Feather has always been one of my ultimate faves. [If you’re unaware: a group of crows take pity on poor Dumbo and his tragic story of life in the circus. In order to inspire a boost of confidence, they give him a “magic” feather to help him fly.] I love this fable so much that I often compare various aspects of my own life as my Dumbo Feather — items, places, situations, even people who I believe I need in order to take flight…so to speak.

My creative career has steered me in directions I’ve rarely planned. Nearly all of my professional opportunities have found me, and yes, I consider myself incredibly fortunate, I dare say privileged, especially in this day and age of downsizing, layoffs, and shortage of positions per capita. I say this because I am grateful for the predominantly clear path I’ve tread.

But I’ve always tried to launder my karma by working beyond my job description. If an opportunity presented itself to learn a new skill, or take on a project that was seemingly beyond my means, or even my pay grade, I would go for it full throttle. The odd thing is that I never really felt the urge to climb the ol’ corporate ladder, and in fact, often shied away from promotions for fear that I’d have to let go of sweet, succulent creativity in order to take on more middle management.

Still, I felt off-course. I’ve only recently started to uncover why.

Over the past couple years I’ve noticed a shift in the professional world around me. I’ve watched friends, colleagues, and interweb peers embark on their own career adventures, outside the confines of a corporate-sponsored cubicle. Sketchy health benefits and unstable paychecks be damned! I’ve watched voraciously as these brave entrepreneurs found success. But there I was, cheering from the sidelines, clinging to my safe cubicle, my decent health benefits, and my stable paycheck. My feather.

Guys, it’s been a wistful, bittersweet cheer over here on the bleachers, I gotta tell ya. Like I said, something’s missing. And like all humans, I suffer the insufferable fate of craving a bigger purpose. Purpose is a trickster though, always masquerading as something else, or disappearing into the ether just when you think you’ve got her all figured out. And I’ve been lingering out front like a sucker waiting for another happenstance shot at Purpose to pull up and take me to the next stop.

Maybe in the next cubicle I’ll get it all figured out. Wash Rinse Repeat.

You know what the definition of insanity is though, right? So a few months ago, I finally decided to ditch the ride and take a little walk. I allowed myself to wander a bit. What if I took control and constructed my own purpose? What would it look like? What were the logistics? How would I feel if I were, like my friends, successful?

Soon enough I wandered out far enough to reach the edge, and there it was: so vast. And a very, very long way down. Totally intriguing, but absolutely daunting. I fully admit it, I backed up. I backed up several times. But once you get a glimpse at the potential beyond, well I’ll try and save you the heartache because when you back up. It’s miserable. So without backing up, I had only two more options: to fall or to fly.

Not sure if you remember the end of Dumbo’s story, but as it turns out, he can fly just fine without that magic feather.

But hold up a second. Is the magic feather pointless? A mirage? Or worse…deceit? No. Hell no, it isn’t.

Who’s to say there isn’t something a little magical about places, items, and especially people who support you (or even distract you) along your way? The people — good and not so good — I’ve met on my path have all contributed. They’ve molded this human who finally got the guts to peer into the abyss.

Plus, you know what? If anyone could use a little more magic, it’s everyone. What’s wrong with beholding good luck charms, spirit animals, superheroes, and magic feathers as simple reminders that a little something extra — something we can’t quite explain — is waiting there to help us fly? Maybe we all need that phantom extra nudge to push us a little bit closer to the edge.

But the leap, though. Well, that’s on us.

An unknowingly wise stranger unknowingly said something profound to me this week: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re just taking up space.”

Cheers to you, edge-dwellers. I hope you have a little room for me out there as I take my big leap.

Now tell me, what’s your feather?