Sitting on my sofa as a young girl, I remember watching 'The last crusade', with my heart in my mouth and my eyes peering through gaps in my fingers when Indiana Jones is confronted by the step of faith. A great ravine stands between him and the holy grail and he must take the step into the abyss in order to reach the holy grail. Seeing the large chasm between him and the other side he murmurs "impossible no-one can jump this...it's a step of faith" and his dying fathers voice ushers him "you must believe boy, you must believe". As the music and tension builds, Indiana Jones takes a dramatic step in to the ravine, not knowing if this will plummet him to his death. I breathed an audible sigh of relief and amazement when he was caught by the invisible bridge.
Growing up, I heard this clip used as an analogy for the dreams and life decisions we face. We stand on one side of a dream and to reach the other, we must take a step of faith, a move forwards not knowing if we will succeed or fail. Some will remain where they are, on firm ground, not wanting to risk the unknown; others will take the leap. But when this analogy was used in childhood, it never went beyond that first step. The first step was put on a pedestal - equated with the hard part, the step that required all of your faith. Once you'd stepped out, you'd done it, you could now walk to the other side knowing the bridge was there. I have faced a few of these moments in my life but none more significant than Snowdrop. Over the last 4 years, this scene has often come to mind, because, from my experience, the analogy is wrong.
Although the initial step requires faith, it is also full of energy, fresh vision and hope and accompanied by others to encourage you and buoyed by the invisible bridge meeting your feet. For me this was 5 years ago at the launch. Attended by 100 people and excited by the possibilities that lay ahead. This is not the hardest part, nor the part that takes the greatest faith and perseverance. That point is the middle of the bridge.
In the middle of the bridge you have come so far but have no idea how far you have yet to go. The bridge beneath your feet is still invisible and you have no idea if what you stand on is false. Every step has required faith and let's face it, you are standing in the middle of an abyss. You are weary from the journey and you wonder why you ever took that blasted step in the first place. Many of the voices that once surrounded you have faded and the middle of the bridge can feel incredibly lonely.
To those who feel in the middle of such a bridge, there are a few things that I learnt.
1. It is ok to crawl - there were times where faith and energy propelled me forwards, yet others where I struggled to get out of bed, battling with self doubt and criticism, wondering what on earth I was doing. It is ok to not feel full of faith, it is ok to struggle. Just so you know, for me, these points usually came just before breakthrough
2. Listen and look for the few - it is true that this point feels lonely but don't be silent. Be raw and honest. Some will not stick around (and that can hurt) but there will be a few that stay with you. Those people will provide a type of friendship, connection and support that is more precious than you can put in to words and is rare to find in 'normal' circumstances. They may even be the ones to provide your next breakthrough.
3. Enjoy the glimpses of the vision ahead - over the 4 years of establishing the charity without funding, we saw the lives of trafficked people transformed. Women reunited with children after years of forced separation, women realising dreams and attending university, 5 figure compensation sums to make up for criminal damages. When everything around you makes you question yourself, enjoy the glimpses of the vision ahead.
4. Celebrate small successes - sometimes the vision of the dream can diminish the joy of the small victories along the way. There were times I found myself thinking 'that's great, but what if we never get there?' - don't let the big vision steal the smaller successes. For me it was things like getting free legal support for charity status (and getting the status itself!), getting our own office, receiving our first £10k - none of these enough to create stability but each one significant. When you don't know how long the journey is, learn to celebrate along the way.
Although I have seen the realisation of one dream, I find I cannot help but dream again and dream bigger. And as I do so, I am aware that, once again, I stand at the edge of a ravine; the precipice of the unknown. This time though, I know it is not just a step of faith but a journey of unknown length and this time, I go equipped with the tools of the past, the precious few and a readiness to learn the new.