The Difference a Year Makes

About a year ago, I received the remarkable gift of convening what Parker Palmer calls a clearness committee.

Confronting a major life decision — what to do next after earning the master’s degree I’d worked so hard for — I didn’t want to go it alone. I gathered a half-dozen friends who knew me differently well and asked for the gift of an hour of their combined attention.

It was an extraordinary experience, and it has continued to reverberate across the past year. Plenty of questions remain open, and much that I’ve done in the past year has raised new questions to wrestle with.

But one of the most powerful results wasn’t any specific decision but rather a new bias for action. In his closing reflection, one friend — a paratrooper — compared my situation to the 40-foot tower from which paratroopers in training have to leap before they can jump out of real airplanes. “Jump,” he urged. “Jump!”

Forty feet looks and feels like a big fall. But, if you want to make the really big leaps, you’ve got to throw yourself off the tower one way or another.

In the past year, I’ve made as many practice jumps as possible. The memory of that committee helps me get my courage up, and the feeling of flying keeps bringing its own kind of clarity.