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On Jumping Backwards Off Cliffs

Three years ago today I closed the door to my little Venice Beach apartment for the very last time and climbed behind the driver's seat of a moving truck, embarking on one of the biggest adventures of my life. Upending my life in Los Angeles and moving across the country for a guy I'd only known a few months was definitely the riskiest thing I'd ever done.

I can't help but look back on that summer and just shake my head. I'm incredulous that it all even happened. And that three years later I'm waking up in Chicago, married, with a beautiful little girl. When I turned the ignition in that moving truck three years ago, the above are the very things I was hoping would happen, but I didn't know for sure that they would.

Last weekend Cat reminded me of something I said to her that summer, "If it doesn't feel like jumping backwards off a cliff, then it's not worth it." Sounds like something I'd say, even though I can't imagine saying it right now.

But it's true. All the best things that have ever happened in my life, came at the cost of great risk and of great faith. Each of them very much felt exactly like that: jumping backwards off a cliff, and having to just know that it will all work out. 

Easier said than done, no? It's never easy. It's always terrifying, exhilarating, thrilling.

And it's something I learned from my parents, my father in particular. A man who, in fact, jumped out of a burning plane when he was 24 years old. Miles up in the air, in the middle of an air war over Eastern Europe during WWII, he had no choice but to do so. He hit his head jumping through the bomb bay doors and was knocked unconscious. When he came to seconds later he pulled the ripcord on his parachute and for the next 15 minutes floated idly through the snowy skies until he landed in a field outside the Czech town of Olomoutz.

And that experience, that mindblowing, terrifying, exhilarating and thrilling experience, forever changed the way my father lived his life. Twenty years later when my mother stood him up for their first blind date he showed up at the door to her Manhattan apartment the next morning, trying again. By that afternoon he had convinced her to get on an airplane to Atlanta with him, and three months later they were married.

Just think: If he hadn't been bold enough to ring her buzzer that Sunday morning after she stood him up, and if she hadn't said yes to the invitation to go swimming in his pool in Atlanta that very evening, I would never have believed such things were possible and I probably never would have had the guts to move across the country for a man I'd only see on five separate occasions.

So, today is an anniversary of having nothing but faith, nothing but bravado and a desire for the best possible outcome. It's an anniversary of jumping backwards off cliffs.


  1. And if he hadn’t been bold enough to ring her buzzer that Sunday morning, Claire wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be enjoying her wonderful blog! Thank you Mr. Smith…..

    Comment by kaye king on August 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm

  2. Thank you Mr Smith indeed!
    And thank you Claire, for this very timely reminder that sometimes one needs to take a risk. Now excuse me while I take a deep breath before I jump… :)

    Comment by Sophie on August 29, 2010 at 4:25 am

  3. Glad I stumbled upon you… I’m looking for inspiration and suddenly here you are. Thanks for the push.

    Comment by Ashleigh Burroughs who's fat and happy under the sun on August 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

  4. oops

    Comment by Ashleigh Burroughs ... who didn't check her sign in name on August 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm

  5. Ha…thanks, Sophie!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on August 29, 2010 at 8:03 pm

  6. Very true!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on August 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm

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