Inspired by the picture book Trini’s Big Leap, The Big Leap is a home for stories about people who discover new strengths—physical, emotional, intellectual, artistic, social—at home and in their communities. In short, this is a collection of stories from people who take big leaps and have something to say about the ride.
Minneapolis. Ten months after our first move, fourteen months after the wedding. “I’ve been really unhappy here,” he said, or something like it. He was depressed, not adjusting, even though everything he’d come here for was in place. This time, the cure for his discontent was a return to grad school back in his home state.
His announcement came just as I had begun to settle in.
No. The voice came, swift and calm as always. No. In a whisper, close to the ear, unequivocal. No. Monosyllabic. No. The voice I’d ignored right before I said I do.
Stay, it said. Let him go if he wants to. But let go.
“You’re really unhappy?” I asked. Acquiescing had become a habit, easier than fighting.
“OK, then. You get yourself together for school. I’ll take care of the move.” Make-It-Work-Girl, What-I-Want-Doesn’t-Really-Matter-Girl, to the rescue.
In the weeks that followed, I went through the motions: Booking the moving truck. Emailing the landlord. Searching for a new home. The only thing I couldn’t do was pack.
In tears of quiet fury, I started assembling boxes and pitching in random stuff without regard for what might break.
Sob and pitch…Sob and pitch.
Connecticut. A year later. I had stopped sleeping. I had come to embody fear. I was stiff and twitchy, and my hair grayed rapidly, exposing the frizzy and tangled wiring that was my nervous system. Work felt impossible. I felt impossible.
I started to imagine his palpable anger and intermittent verbal attacks as something sharp lodged in between my ribs. Even though it never materialized, my spleen believed in the steel point and edge of a knife. And the psychic danger of ever-present brooding and contempt made it too hot to sleep. Me, my fear, him, his anger. There was no room in the bed for all of us.
Finally, after months, real sleep. Dreamless, exhausting, and black, but still. I sat up and listened in the dawn light. For the first time in a year, the voice returned:
I got out of bed and started reassembling the few boxes still left from before. Books were easiest; I arranged them alphabetically by author in neat stacks. I cleared space on a table, began rolling bubble wrap and tissue paper around the rose-tinted crystal we never used, a gift from my aunt. Tiny parcels, protected. Prepared to start over again. Alone.
Taking Risks: From Big Biz to Little Gym
I’m fearless—the type of kid who wouldn’t hesitate climbing trees, or ride my bike with no hands, or perform difficult ice-skating routines even if I was often told that I was punching above my weight.
After graduating from college in Switzerland, I packed my suitcases and went off to New York. I absorbed as much information as I could to lay the foundations of my future career. These years of absolute independence were key to what I’d become later on in life.
But after I joined the business world, my biggest leap wasn’t when I became an Investor Relations professional in the pharmaceutical industry. My biggest leap was, instead, the leap I took when, in my late forties, I decided to open my own business by becoming an international franchise owner of The Little Gym. Opening this franchise has become the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Every risk I’ve taken, every foundation I ever put into place gave me the strength to take this risk, and, in taking the risk, to experience this joy.
Leaping into Love: For William
I’ll never forget the first time we met William. He was living with his first foster family, and he was destined for our home next. He had bright eyes and an adorable smile. He was just 12 months old. Our biological son was 6.
William’s arrival was explosive. Diapers. Sippy cups. Bibs. Tiny shoes. Bunny loveys. The biggest explosion was our hearts: Tiny fingers picking up dry cereal. Flat, little, pudgy feet to kiss. Itty-bitty toes to nibble.
They say each time a foster child is moved, a piece of his soul is lost. After William’s arrival, the light in his eyes went dim. His cute chuckle vanished.
We just kept loving him. It took William 9 months before he’d let us kiss his boo-boos when he got hurt. It took him 15 months before he’d let me hold his hand while I sang to him at bed time. Alas, after two years with us, he emitted so much warmth.
It was devastating when we learned William would return to his parents. My heart-broken son said, “I don't want to be an only child again.”
May your soul stay bright, and your heart feel light, now and always, our little William.
THE SPINNING WHEEL: A BIG LEAP
I didn’t reinvent the wheel, I just spun it in a new direction. The journey began in March of 2018 when I took a big leap of faith and started my own business, JS Media. My business is an agency that specializes in media planning/buying, something I’ve done professionally since I graduated from Syracuse University in 2012 with a degree in advertising. I saw an opportunity to take this business model, which has always been huge for Fortune 500 companies, and make it available to smaller businesses. Though I’ve long understood advertising, this was my first time starting a business so I had no idea where this journey would take me.
Nearly a year and a half has passed and I’m still navigating my way through the entrepreneur world as I continue to network throughout northern New Jersey, refine the way I pitch my services, and learn about new concepts like white labeling and referral bonuses. This has been a rollercoaster, mixed with moments of glory and moments of frustration. The moments of frustration are okay, though, because they fuel my passion even further, and as long I’ve got passion, I’ve got faith.
HEADING FOR THE OCEAN: A BIG LEAP
Having health issues, I was fragile, rail-thin, with only enough strength for the basics. Six years earlier, during the divorce, my youngest child and I moved three hours north. Two years later, he left Ohio for the University of Montana.
My daughter had come up for a visit. We were in the kitchen when I spoke, one too many times, of longing for the ocean.
“Go, or stop talking about it,” she told me.
“How could you say that?” I lashed out. She knew my fears, and history, of getting lost while driving. We argued hard, with tears, before hugging and making up.
Four months later, I headed for North Carolina to visit a friend, still with no sense of direction—and no GPS. Yes, I got lost, but, as my youngest son promised would happen, I got found—with the kind help of strangers.
My kids were ecstatic. They mailed gifts to my friend’s house. It was a life-changing, joyous sixtieth birthday, with a sand cake and shell candles.
I still thank my daughter for that kick. Anything less wouldn’t have been enough. Help can hurt—at first. But possibility is a healer.
The adventures since then could fill a book!
Frankie hangs out: A Trini story
Frankie Marvel was truly a marvel at adding twos and threes. Sometimes he would count past all ten fingers on his two hands. Sometimes he would count Trini’s somersaults and the number of blocks in William’s tower and the number of shoes on Keisha’s feet. But there was no way he was ever going to trust himself to hang from the monkey bars in the gym his father took him to. That seemed like a ridiculous way to spend his time, and besides, he had been born with skinny arms.
“You can’t say you can’t if you don’t try,” Keisha could be heard telling him.
“Numbers are more interesting from up high,” William would say.
“This is silly,” Trini once said. “Don’t you think so?”
“Nope,” Frankie Marvel said. Every. Single. Time.
One word. One syllable. One boy. One wasn’t a very interesting number.
If Frankie didn’t try, he could not fall. If Frankie didn’t try, he could not fail. If Frankie didn’t try, he would never laugh the way the others laughed when they hung from their long arms, short arms, wide arms, thin arms and swung.
Frankie watched. Frankie waited. Frankie did his marvelous math. And then one day Frankie decided: I think I’ll take a turn. His friends gathered around. They counted one two three. They lifted Frankie to the bar, and he reached, and his skinny arms were strong skinny arms, and four five six seven eight, the others counted, then nine ten eleven twelve, they went on, then, “Wow, Wow, Wow,” Frankie said, because suddenly his world was a whole lot more interesting than it had ever been.