The Cliff’s Edge #sol20

The Cliff’s Edge #sol20

Do one thing every day that scares you. – Mary Schmich


If it were only just one thing…

Our yard drops pretty quickly off a precipice.  That little innocuous pig shaped rock and then straight down to some pretty sizable boulders 20-30 feet away.  The way down that way is impossible.  Well… impossible for me.   There is, however, a winding path to the ravine floor.  The path is longer and takes considerable more time.  The trek requires multiple decision points including which fork to take.  Sometimes there are obstacles in the path forward.  Some are moveable: a dead branch fallen from the canopy, a living branch fallen over the foot path, even a medium size rock.  Others require much more effort to move: a fallen tree will have to be dealt with using a saw,  poison ivy along the way will have to be avoided.  All in all, the path forward to the ravine floor requires thoughtful consideration, careful steps, and perhaps even a modicum of forethought.  As I think about the mantra I’ve created for the last few months,  Be Intentional.  Be Fearless.  Be Conscious,  they seem to be the guide for the path forward.  Cautiously, carefully, move forward in the direction you want to go.  I know the direction and I’m mindful of the obstacles.

I have another stickie above my WFH situation:  It’s about what not to worry about… What actually is it that I shouldn’t worry about?  In my familiar woods path,  I shouldn’t worry about finding my way home.  Home is never really that far away.  Even if I get turned around,  I’ll only be 10-15 minutes out of pocket.  I shouldn’t worry about wild animals.  While there are squirrels, rabbits, birds, deer, raccoons, fisher cats, and coyotes, they are much more aware of me that I am of them.  I see them mostly in passing or not at all. For the most part, the trail is semi-obvious, worn by animals or other humans as they pass.

The way ahead for me professionally, academically, this fall seems similarly treacherous.  The direct path to success straight down the cliffside seems too dangerous for me personally.  The work around fraught with so many unknowns.  Do I know what not to worry about?  

When my old lab, Lily, and I take a walk in the woods,  I let her decide, long path or short path, where to stop and literally smell the flowers, where to speed up and where to slow down.  In the end,  I know where we are going to end up.  I have thought through the possibilities and the difficulties.  I’ve considered her capacities and mine,  the weather, our energy levels.  Then we move forward.  Most of the time we are absolutely successful.  We accomplish what we set out for, we get home in one piece, and one or both of us is not overtired.  Every once in awhile, we overestimate our abilities.  We push ourselves and by the time we return home, we are a little worse for wear.  The next time we go out, we keep that in mind and plan accordingly.

So in our changing professional environment, let’s keep the same pace as that walk with Lily.  Be prepared.  Have the materials we think we need and consider some of the scenarios that might happen.  We won’t be too surprised that way.  Know that some walks are going to seem easy.  Some are going to be challenging, but manageable.  Occasionally, we are going to return from one a little worse for wear.  Charged from accomplishing what we found hard and road-wise for the next outing.

img_0602I walk along this writing journey on Tuesday with my Slice of Life companions.  They are always there when I succeed and when I get in the weeds.  Check out their writing journeys at

4 thoughts on “The Cliff’s Edge #sol20

  1. Susan, I love how you began this piece and the parallels you made to this coming school year. I love your mantras as well. I am trying to be less attached to any particular way or outcome and accept that it will likely be a year of a lot of back and forth, unknowns and flexibility. It’s funny because last year, I was kind of bemoaning how it was my 18th year of teaching and it’s a long time to do the same job. (Even though teaching is different every year, I still have been a classroom teacher for that amount of time.) Now, the job feels a lot different! And while I certainly wish a global pandemic wasn’t the reason, there is a piece of me that is excited for the new learning and the new routines we might create. A new path forward.

  2. Obstacles are constantly being thrown in our path. Overcoming them is what makes us strong. Although a new path may lead to unforeseen obstacles, it also opens our eyes to new opportunities and wonders we may have missed had we gone a different way.

  3. This is such a helpful way to think about our upcoming teaching experience. We don’t want to jump off any cliffs, but we want to find a way to navigate safely to our destination. And the point about what NOT to worry about is so important. I tend to worry about EVERYTHING! That can become exhausting, and really is not at all helpful.
    Thank you for this thoughtful post.

  4. The analogies you draw in this post are most appropriate in these challenging times. The connection is most clearly drawn. Like all of us you are combatting the challenges in new and considered ways. There is wisdom in your words and hope in your attitude. A powerful piece of writing Susan.

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