I’m a leaper. I am at my most comfortable when I am wired with the thrill that comes with jumping from thing to thing.
I’m not sure if this is because leaping aligns me to the present, or, on the flip-side, because it takes me far, far away from it. I’m close to resolving that it’s a case of a-bit-of-this and a-bit-of-that.
There aren’t many of us who would agree to live on the other side of the world with a man they’re only just beginning to know. But, leaping is easy for me (pausing, deliberating—that’s where the struggles at).
So, unsurprisingly, I leapt into Paris—my new home.
When I landed, though, it was with less gusto than ever before. When you’ve been leaping around a lot, you’re bound to get tired. Constantly fearful that I was missing something, I had leapt all over the place for nearly all of my early twenties.
(These “missing” things—some were never found. The Portuguese word saudade means to desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist—like a childhood pet you never had. Some missing things were like this. Other things I did find. They were in my back pocket all along. And there are some things I’m still searching for, but with a little more grace.)
I’m in Paris, but I’m not of it. Up until recently, I’ve felt too exhausted to even attempt immersing myself, and I have been glad to watch Paris from the wayside. (I think that even if I was desperate to be of Paris, I would be disappointed. To be of Paris takes time—something that many struggle accepting when they first move here.)
Sitting on the sideline, catching my breath, I have to resist my impulse to jump in, resist the urge to hastily form a tangible measure of my progress so that I can prove to myself and to everybody else that I’ve got everything covered.
Rather, I’m trying to own my discomfort. I’m showing my vulnerability because I want to walk my talk, and my talk is that we’ve got to drop the armour if we want to be closer to ourselves and to everybody else. The thing is, though, I get the discomforting feeling that my sitting at the wayside, wearing less armour than ever, make a few people worry that I’ll get hurt or, worse, fall behind.
But, the thing is, I, we, have to ignore these well-meaning people and continue with what we need to do—even if it doesn’t look like much.
If we want slower, more meaningful lives, we have to instigate the process.
We need to strengthen ourselves where we’ve grown weak and soften ourselves we’re we’ve grown tough before we take another jump.
We need to lighten the load by dropping our second, third and fourth skins.
Above all, we need to be looking at ourselves—not at the people watching us.
This morning I drew two radishes. The first radish was drawn in a fast, hopeful rush where I had only the end in mind: a pretty radish, drawn quickly and effortlessly. The radish didn’t turn out very well. Clumpy, heavy—like too much mascara on a woman who is insecure about her face.
For the second attempt, I tried not to leap ahead. Instead, I stepped back, and gently observed where my pencil had been and where it still needed to go. My second radish was much more beautiful. Soft, delicate, at ease with itself.
(I rarely draw, by the way. There was a point during school where I looked over at what someone else was drawing and felt it was better than mine, and I sort of gave up from there. This tends to happen when our education system teaches us to value being the best, rather than being our best.)
We get a lot of advice to run madly after our dreams, but I’m beginning to think that there’s a time to stand behind them and watch. Watching feels slow, passive, and, for me, against how I’m habitualized. But the radish, as little as it is, has confirmed for me this:
It’s pertinent to watch where you’re at. To sit still before your next jump.
But that’s mostly applicable if you’re a leaper, like me. If you’re prone to be a watcher, you’ve probably done enough sitting.
There’s an ever-moving balance between watching and leaping, I think, and I’m there, wobbling on the balancing board.
Watching, as I slowly become of Paris.
Pausing, before I take my next jump.
I’m a leaper, after all.
Author: Amanda Buttenshaw
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own; Annie Spratt/Unsplash