“I'd like to take a long walk, to the edge of something.” ― Arthur K. Flam
on the brink
Edges are where real life radiates. They’re the hard conversations we are afraid to enter. The compliment we shy away from giving. The physical challenge we push through. The question we are reluctant to pose. Should we leave behind careers that had shaped our identities in order to follow a new path of guiding youth? These edges are places where the known meets the unknown, where we choose to explore the unexplored. Going to our edges is about strengthening connections with others and ourselves. Deep down, we know: To feel truly alive we must go to these edges.
rich with possibility
In his 2014 Ted Talk in Sonoma, Amar Hanspal agrees. “[Edges are] fraught with danger, yet rich with possibility. Challenging ourselves in this way has been fundamental to the story of human progress. No innovation, no discovery, no accomplishment would have been possible without it. From the first flight to the four minute mile, from Einstein’s equations to the discovery of the new world, from Picasso to punk rock.”Our growth is provoked by challenge. And we flirt with the boundaries of our comfort zones every single day. We have watched youth and found ourselves approaching edges in search of a clearer sense of our authentic selves. Standing at the edge, we take deep breaths and exhale. Returning from the edge, we are more at home in our own skin.
considering our edges
On a recent retreat, we offered the teens another way to understand edges: A stroll through the woods, over even terrain and a clear path, is perfectly pleasant. The rhythmic walking and the natural beauty encourage us, though not to any remarkable degree. If, however, we hike the edge of a steep cliff or a high bluff, we can’t help but feel more alive, more invigorated, more aware of each step, and more sure of who we are.
We asked the youth to consider their edges: Where do the edges in your life exist? Which edge are you most eager to explore? What is alluring about this edge? What is frightening about this edge? What do you need to approach this edge? The conversation that followed illustrated how distinct edges look for each of us. Their responses ranged from one youth trying new foods (as he feels stuck in a routine of believing he doesn’t like certain fare), to an introvert challenging herself to talk with someone new at social gatherings, to a senior sharing his fear of leaving home, where he has worn a familiar path, to venture off to college where little is certain. The edge lies in our choice to exist in uncertainty.“Everybody is dealing with edges all the time, be they large or small,” one teen noted. “They’re the part of life that lead to growth and a greater version of yourself. The first step in encountering an edge is acknowledging its very existence.”
where is your edge?
Young people approach edges all the time, knowing full well what they’re risking when they do. They do it with an eagerness to explore the unexplored. And we admire that. “Edges don’t necessarily represent endings, but instead furtherings of self,” one 18-year old wrote. “This is a really cool theory, because expansion of self is endless. There is a lot of optimism in that thought.”Though challenging and often awkward, these edges represent where life gets real. And awkward doesn’t need to be a bad thing. It takes courage to approach, and it takes practice to keep pushing ourselves to our edges—in big ways and small. When you no longer fear the unknown, you might find this new territory intoxicating. What’s holding you back from approaching your edge? The view from that high bluff is magnificent.