I used to be really good at playing it safe. I was so good at it that from the outside it didn’t even look like I was playing it safe. I didn’t do things that scared me or felt uncertain. Following the neatly paved path of straight A’s, awards, accolades, and academic achievements, I was well on my way to a well-paid, desk-sitting, ladder-climbing, totally boring, safe life. Every 24 year old’s dream.
I had my desk job, the one I always figured I’d have, with the salary, health benefits, and 401K. I had the longtime, live-in boyfriend whom I loved so deeply. The only thing missing was a ring, a white fence, a couple of babies, and living out the classic “play it safe” story. Somewhere along the way, I just couldn’t fucking take it anymore. I looked around at my work supervisors and thought, “I have zero desire to be in their position. Not even a little piece of me wants to climb this ladder.” A few years later, I had a similar realization at home. I looked around at my pleasant condo and my sweet, safe boyfriend and realized that there wasn’t even a ladder to climb in that relationship. We had been standing still for years, co-existing, but never truly living. We didn’t travel. We didn’t talk about our future. We didn’t plan a life together even though we spent over half a decade with one another. We were simply playing it safe together.
Editor’s Note: Though we may have been playing it safe, we loved each other deeply. We were best friends. We were the biggest part of each other’s lives. He is a beautiful man with a sweet soul, which is why it was easy to play it safe with him for so long. I could have had a sweet, safe life with him, but I wanted a passionate, adventurous, fulfilling life – and those aren’t always the same.
Through all of my playing it safe, I realized something that will forever keep my from playing it safe again. When you play it safe, you can never experience wild, unbridled love and joy. You can have sweet, safe love and quiet, safe joy – but never wild and unbridled.
To love fully, we must risk massive heartbreak. To experience true joy, we have to live and grow through pain often enough to be able to recognize the joy that exists in each moment. And, when we play it safe, we never let ourselves be vulnerable to massive heartbreak. We close off, put up walls, and never fully surrender to love. When we play it safe, we also never let ourselves be vulnerable to the full depth of our pain. We numb and ignore. We pretend it’s not there. We run and hide, but we don’t let ourselves feel it. Keeping ourselves from fully feeling pain also keeps us from fully feeling joy. That’s just the way it goes.
So you can choose to experience wild, unbridled love and joy. Or, you can choose to play it safe. But, you cannot choose both. And, that’s the problem with playing it safe.