The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.
- Joseph Cambell
For the last three years I worked at the Department of Energy and almost every day I passed the same homeless man and his cart of shabby possessions. For three years he was on that same corner, living in squalor, begging for change, and squatting at the lowest level of American society.
In the final weeks before quitting my job he became almost a totem of my anxieties; a ragged and dirty warning of all that could go terribly wrong in one’s life. How many times when I told coworkers I was quitting my job did they say "I’d love to but I’d end up living on the street!"?
Too many to count.
The homeless man’s plight is an extreme example but I find my mind fogs up easily with less melodramatic, more likely, scenarios. What if my mom gets really sick and I need money to take care of her? What if all my rental properties go vacant at the same time – for months? What if the economy stalls again and getting another job becomes impossible when I return? What if, what if, what if… Sometime these fears crowd me like bullies on a playground. They get loud. They wake me at night.
Eventually I tame them the only way I know how: with bigger, scarier bullies. What if I get old and never do the things I dreamed of? What if a government Web designer is all I’ll ever be? What if I spend my whole life feeling safe at the cost of feeling really alive?
These two groups have rumbled for years and now I guess we know which won. So I’ve taken the leap and I’m headed out. I’ve got a plan that I’m optimistic about and eager to dive into.
Still, on my last week I made sure to stop, say a kind word and stuff some bills in the homeless man’s cup on my way to my new life.