Look Before You Leap

I was in the seventh grade. My class teacher was this stunningly gorgeous girl called Celine. We called her Miss Celine and loved her madly.

She had her own voodoo. She made sunshine her personal accessory.

When she swished into the class in the morning, tripping along briskly, she would be glittering with sun beams. Her smile was made purely of sunrays. Her eyes held the cozy warmth of sunshine on a chill winter morn. Her good morning girls shone like the golden orb. I learned the meaning of hero worship that year.

One day, she decided to do something to wake us up. She told us that for the next few classes, we would not be studying from our books. Instead, we’d be doing something entirely out of syllabus. Dramatically, her eyes round as saucers, she told us we’d be making extempore speeches..!

She would write down one topic for each student on a slip of paper. The folded slips would be placed in a basket. We were to take turns at picking a slip and speaking on the topic for three minutes. All of us were nervous; none more than me.

The topic I got was Look Before You Leap. I had read this idiom but had only a vague idea of its meaning. It was the first time I was speaking in public. I was so jittery that the little I knew also deserted me. I stood in front of the class twisting my fingers behind my back, looking at the floor and wishing the earth would swallow me.

My non- performance was shameful. And to be so mortified in front of my hero?! I wished I would crumble to dust rather than have her look at me again. When my three minutes were up, she let me escape. I was too numbed to cry.

In the evening, I asked my mother what the phrase meant. She explained. With her typical naughty humor, she added something of her own to it. “Look before you leap”, she said, her eyes twinkling. “But don’t look for too long or you will never leap”, she finished, bubbling with mirth.

I asked Ms Celine for another chance. She refused regretfully. But she told me she would listen to my speech privately. Elated, I gave her my three minute speech after school got over. She patted my head, genuinely pleased. I was vindicated, my honor restored in her eyes- which was more important than anything else.

Many years later I recalled the words my mother had appended to the idiom. I felt hit by a speeding train.

When you are a teenager, you tell yourself that your life would begin when you are out of school and its restrictions. When you reach college, you are sure it will begin once you get a job and are financially independent. When you get your first job, you think life will begin once you have a better job since this one doesn’t pay you enough to keep body and soul together. When you get a better job you think it would begin when you get married because then you’ll have someone to share your life with.

Your life was dripping away because you were spending too much time looking at it instead of leaping.

Life had always bee something ahead of you. You were not able to catch it and say, “I’m living right now, in this moment and in all the moments from this point forward.”

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

~ Alfred D. Souza

Even as you wait for to begin life, you are living it. You are free to see where it is leading you. If your path doesn’t excite you, you are free to take action right now and choose a new path. It is not going to happen tomorrow, it is happening right now. It wont happen someday. None of the days of the week are called someday.

Each choice you make, each decision you take or abdicate, is shaping your life. Life is not going to be a neatly packaged fairy tale which you will begin living once you have got everything in place.

I realized that day that I’d looked enough. It was time to leap.

Look Before You Leap

14 thoughts on “Look Before You Leap”

    1. I agree Swati. You do need lots of courage to take the leap.

      We all need to decide whether we wish to bear the burden of our regrets of we choose to defeat our fears.

      Good to see you here. Thanks for coming by. 🙂

    1. God bless you then. I am beginning to think I too should start doing that. I mean, I’m not getting any younger here.

      Nor are you. Stop grinning!

  1. Your mother put it so simply what Alfred D. Souza has said eloquently, and Oliver Wendell Holmes lyrically.

    I am reminded of that haunting quote, also my eternal favourite –

    “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
    To the last syllable of recorded time….”

    ~The bard needs no introduction.

    1. And one day you realize with a sinking dismay that all you have to show for your life is a string of empty tomorrows wilting in your wake; as eloquent as a string of zeros.

      Your words illuminate and inspire. Thank you for your presence on my blog. I cannot thank you enough.

  2. Yes, we lead our lives running after things and waiting for better prospects and by the time we realize that, it is all over.
    Your teacher reminds me of Sushmita Sen in Main Hoon Na. 🙂

  3. What a lovely life lesson….and so elegantly put. Such a strange trait all of us seem to share – procrastination. Why do we wait for ‘something’ to happen before we can get on with the business of enjoying life!

    1. Procrastination is a kin to fear of the unknown. We share that trait too. We scare ourselves with our ‘worst case scenarios’ and would rather live forever in the no man’s land of uncertainty than to tackle our fears.

      Simi… she was every adolescent boy’s fantasy after Mera Naam Joker. Or so I have heard. 🙂

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