Life Is Short. Live A Little.

L’Appel du Vide

The unknown is terrifying.

But also seductive.

I sometimes have dreams of standing right at the edge of something and I can’t quite make out what’s past the threshold. Standing there, at this border, I feel l’appel du vide- the call of the void. An urgent, almost irresistible desire to fling myself with reckless abandon into the mystery. Alongside that surge of impetuosity exists the desire to retreat- to stick to what I know.

Push and pull.

Why do we feel the call of the void? What makes us want to jump? What restrains us?

Answers vary. According to Jean-Paul Sartre, l’appel du vide is about the freedom to choose between life and death; the “vertigo of possibility.” Neuroscience offers no clear-cut answers. One study suggests that it’s the result of our pre-frontal cortex misinterpreting signals from our amygdala, and the call of the void is actually an affirmation of our will to live. Adam Anderson, a cognitive neuroscientist, suggests that this phenomenon has to do with the human tendency to gamble when in a high-risk situation.

I think appel du vide, even if it isn’t the actual urge to hurl ourselves from the nearest cliff, is a feeling we confront in some manner from time to time in our lives. Sometimes, we find ourselves on a precipice. We can choose to keep our feet planted, in the relative safety of what we know…or we can jump.

Leap, and the net will appear.
— John Burroughs, American naturalist

My Story

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I took my first leap at the tender age of eighteen. On my own, I left my idyllic homeland and moved to another continent. I followed a staid, safe path for some time; I earned two undergraduate degrees and then moved on to a doctorate- because it was the next logical step.

I loved science. I loved working in the lab, I loved solving puzzles, I loved pushing the frontier of human knowledge.

But it could not sustain the fire in me.

I wanted more from life.

Academic science was confining, limiting. I had but one dimension: scientist. And that was all.

In me was a hunger for more- a hunger to experience the world, other people, other paths. I didn’t recognise this gnawing dissatisfaction until life circumstances pushed me to take another leap.

A few years ago, I left science and leapt into the world of sex work.

I came alive. I thrived under my newfound freedom and my connections with people. Two years in, I decided that sex work was a great fit for me.

And so, Leila was born.

Leila Hawthorne