There are many moments in our lives. Most are small moments. They subtly shape our paths through life like the rocks and landscape that form the banks of a river. Moments that are little things and apply small forces to our paths. Parts of the river are calm and meandiring, slowly guiding us along our way. Others are rough and chaotic and all we can do is try to navigate the turbulence and hope we come better at the end.
But then there are some moments that matter more. Moments that are cliffs, sending us tumbling down a waterfall, moving us drastically all at once. They mark a clear before and after point in our lives, a point in time that defines us, that there is no going back from.
The first such moment for me was when my grandfather died. It is the point in time I use to mark the end of my childhood. For the first time in my life I was forced to confront reailty, the idea that not everything was perfect in my world. I had a relationship with my grandfather that was unique compared to the rest of my family. He was someone with whom I truly connected. I wish I could remember him better, I wish I could have known him better as a person.
Eight years ago another moment sent me tumbling over one of these cliffs. I was playing a game of pick up basketball with some friends. It was the summer, we were all home from college, and the basketball courts were one of the few place to go in our small town. Jumping for a loose ball I came down wrong. A loud crack, a crunching feeling in my knee accompanied with a lance of sharp pain sent me sprawling to the ground. Laying there in pain, I knew that this wasn’t the sort of simple pop of a joint, or a moderate sprain. Serious damage had occured to my knee. Three surgeries and years later I’ve recovered, but I will never be as athletic as I was before.
My grandfather’s death changed who I was as a person, my knee injury affected how I am able to live my life. Both of these moments were sudden, sharp, unexpected changes for me. Many of these major moments in our lives are. But now I stand above one of these cliffs, for the first time peering over an edge. In one week I am moving half-a-world away, to a place I’ve never been, where I know no one, I will have no job, no plan, and just a backpack. It is a long drop downwards this time, but the edge provides a singular view and bestows a clarity and focus a safer view denies. I am not worried or afraid. Only anxious with anticipation to start my sojourn.