The other night, I was sitting at our kitchen bar, absentmindedly eating an apple crumb muffin and staring at the flicker of the lemon tart candle in front of me. My roommate sat down and, still mesmerized by the flame, I made an off-hand comment of always wanting to learn how to extinguish a candle wick with my fingers. I explained to her that I had seen my father extinguish candle flames that way when I was a young girl and I thought it was the coolest and most fearless thing in the world.
My roommate responded with encouragement. I should definitely learn how to do it tonight, she said. That’s how I ended up dunking my fingertips in my water bottle and hovering over the flame before primal instinct kicked in and told me that I shouldn’t put any part of my body directly into a fire.
We laughed as she pulled up an internet article all about the art of putting out candles with your fingers. It was filed under a “useless party trick” heading. I prefer to think of it as magic.
For a few minutes, I would wet my finger tips and reach toward the candle, then pull my arm back instinctively and laugh nervously.
I jumped out of a plane! I joked, a reference to the fact that a few years prior I had gone skydiving and thought nothing of it. This is easier! This is so much easier!
Finally, I pinched the wick and with a satisfying sizzle, the candle went out. Confidence restored and feeling accomplished, I relit my candle and returned to my room to work on some writing. About an hour later as I was preparing to go to bed, I licked my finger and put out the candle without a second thought or hesitation.
From across the apartment I texted my roommate, “This is child’s play (fire emoji).”
I thought about the weird events of that evening and the next day at work I realized I was onto something. I jumped out of a plane without an ounce of hesitation. It was a fairly spontaneous decision and along with two of my best friends from high school, I simply fell from the sky. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t worry about what could have gone wrong. I just leapt.
Now, as I knew on Candle Evening, trying to put a wick out with your finger would not have nearly as many health risks as jumping out of a plane, but for some reason, I was more afraid of the flame. I stared at the candle. We looked up articles online about the candle. We lit a different candle so there wouldn’t be as much hot wax pooling at the bottom of the wick. But when it came time to put out the fire, I hesitated.
Remember going to pool parties as a little kid? There are always two types of kids at the pool party. The first kid sticks their toe in and shudders. It’s a little cold. They inch down the ladder and each limb that goes under water is a production. It’s a slow and steady approach. Then you have the other kid. They don’t want to test the water. They want to dive in. So they run from the diving board and cannon ball into the water, splashing the slow goer who is still shuddering from being waist deep in the pool.
Skydiving was kind of like that cannonball. I saluted my friends, closed my eyes, and plummeted toward the ground. Extinguishing the candle was painfully sliding into the water, inch by inch, and rolling my eyes at the people who tell me I’ll feel better once my shoulders are under water.
I’ve been thinking about some of the major decisions I’ve made in my life – and while I tend to be, in most circumstances, a planner through and through – some of the most beautiful things I could have ever dreamed of came from taking a chance and doing a cannonball.
I moved to New York City with no thought at all. I had no apartment, no job, and certainly no street smarts. That reckless decision is one of the best I’ve ever made. A few months into the city I moved into a sublet with four guys I had never met. They became my brothers, my confidants, my best friends. A few months later, I applied for a job that would shift me into a new world of opportunity. I had no idea what to expect but I said yes and the sky opened to me.
I want to be that kid who enthusiastically dives into the swimming pool. I want to be that person who can fail fast and brush herself off and move on to the next thing. I want to be that woman who fearlessly pursues her dreams without a moment’s doubt.
Second guessing is for people who are looking for an excuse to give up.
You know what you want. Go get it.