These words greet the heroine of the English Bluebeard-like tale, Mr. Fox, as she approaches the gates to his estate. Like all the heroines of the Bluebeard family of folktales, she is about to discover that the future laid out for her has a dark underbelly and a very real risk of her own brutal and untimely death. She reads the warnings and continues deeper until she reaches the forbidden door, opens it, and finds the bodies of young women just like her. In a moment, the future she thought was before her shifts its path to a dark place and she must now act to free herself from its shackles. The return of Mr. Fox requires her to hastily hide away from sight, watching as he drags another young victim through his stately mansion. He stops near her hiding place, having noticed a ring on the finger of the woman he’s dragging, and in his insatiable greed he feels compelled to stop everything and pull it off her right there. The ring is stuck, however, so in his frustration he simply chops the finger off. It bounces, landing in the heroine’s hiding place, and when he doesn’t immediately see where it went he just shrugs and drags her up to finish the job in his murder-room. The heroine grabs the grisly trophy and books it out of there, holding on to it until the morning of her wedding, when she uses it to reveal Mr. Fox for his true nature and save herself from a murderous union.
The line “Be Bold, Be Bold, But Not Too Bold” struck me particularly when I read this tale about a month ago, and it has become a personal anthem for me since. Not too long ago, I realized that the path that I had set myself on had its own closet full of bones. After a year of working full-time in the office, part-time as a teacher, part-time as a podcaster, and part-time as an illustrator, I had reached a desperate state of burn-out. I walked through the halls of the life I had built and looked in on the bloody closet of ideas and projects I would never have time to complete, opportunities I had already missed or had to turn down. A couple months after that anniversary, I witnessed a long and difficult battle between my magical unicorn coworker and leadership, and her resignation was the finger dropped into my lap. It was time to take myself off this path.
Though her grievances were thankfully resolved, to the relief of everyone involved (we would have been in serious trouble without her- she truly is a magical unicorn of a person), my story had already veered in a different direction. I could not keep up that pace indefinitely, and while my full-time work was the most stable source of income I had, it was also the least fulfilling and the greatest contributor to my closet full of bones.
So here I stand at the mouth of a path into a dimly-lit wood. I packed my bags as best I know how, I have the tools I know how to use at my belt, and I have donned my iron shoes for the journey. The last time I left my safety net was a matter of circumstance outside my control. This time it is my choice. I may encounter many thorns and hungry wolves upon the path, but at least when I reach its end I can say it was an adventure.
Do I have what it takes? I won’t know until I start. Could I have prepared more? Probably, but at what cost? All I know was that I could not stay in the comfortable home of steady income only to end up another nameless set of bones forgotten in a closet. I am buying myself time to tell the stories I have always wanted to tell.
It is time to be bold.