Over the summer, I stumbled across my old yearbook at a friend's beach house. In it, my parents had purchased a portion of a page to write a special message to me. They reminded me that I was safe and always welcome in their port, but that's not what ships are for. They were, like all good parents should, encouraging me to embark on my own life adventures, to leave their nest in search of an independent existence.
At the time, I don't know what that yearbook note meant to me. Did I fully understand its meaning at the age of seventeen? Or did I just think it was silly, laughing my parents' poetic attempts off with a wave of my hand? Now, looking back on the ten years since I first held that yearbook in my hands, I see that what they were saying is so true. It was tempting -- still is -- to stay safe in the port, docked securely against the shore, but that's not what life is for. Life is for sailing, adventuring, experiencing more than safety.
After re-reading that message in my yearbook, days later I happened to stumble across the image above on Tumblr. It felt like a sign, a push from the universe, nudging me to revisit those words my parents had written to me a decade ago. I found myself lost in thought, wondering: Am I still in the port? Have I simply traveled from one port in search of another? Have I missed out on parts of my life because I was more interested in being safe? And, really, what is wrong with safety?
Right now my life is very safe. Everything about it makes sense, falls into line, and looks -- from the outside -- as it should. Aside from the whole marriage-and-kids thing, I am doing everything the "right" way -- the safe way. But I have to wonder if the safe way is the right way for me. In typical Dani fashion, this wondering inspired me to make a two lists: The Pros of Safety and The Cons of Safety.
The Pros of Safety
1. Familiarity. Staying in a safe situation is wonderful for its familiarity aspect. Doing what you've always done, where you've always done it, with the same people you've always done it with offers a certain level of comfort that you just don't get when you leave the port.
2. Security. Safety often offers a sense of security. For example, if you stay at your job rather than leaving it to start a business, you're guaranteed a paycheck (at least while you're employed!). Staying in the port often allows you to feel secure in your daily coming and goings.
3. Flexibility. When you feel safe, you are often more flexible. If you are with people you feel comfortable with, you might be more willing to try something new. Or, if you have a stable job, you have the flexibility to spend money without worrying. You might also be less likely to try new things if you feel safe.
4. Growth. When you are in a place of safety -- say, a great relationship or a cushy job -- you have more freedom for focusing on personal growth. Without the fear and worry of what's next, you can focus on growing yourself and have time and energy to explore your hobbies and interests.
The Cons of Safety
1. Boredom. Let's face it: being safe is boring. It's nice sometimes to know things are where they should be, but who wants a life that's all figured out and in place? After a while, that becomes very uninteresting and life should be exciting, should it not?
2. Staleness. The safer things are, the more they have the potential to grow stale. Like a loaf of bread sitting in the cupboard for weeks, a safe life can often turn moldy and inedible. One of the worst things about staying in the port is experiencing only what is happening on that particular dock.
3. Fear. When you choose to stay in the port, you're likely to encounter a lot of fear. Feeling safe can be wonderful, but it also makes you wonder about what things would be like if you weren't being so safe, causing you to fear the unknown rather than embracing it as you would if you actually left the port.
4. Limitations. Staying safe provides many, many limitations. The benefits of safety may be worth forgoing the freedoms that come with leaving the port, but it's hard to know if one never tries to strike out on his or her own. Safety, while comforting, puts certain barriers on living life to the fullest.
I once read, "You can never cross the ocean unless, of course, you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." I struggle with this a lot. I know there are things in my life that I want -- like a full-time writing career or a business focused on cultivating creativity -- but the safety of the shore keeps me treading water by the dock. Though it used to be one of my specialties, risk is something I typically avoid these days. And this has me wondering if I'm missing out on some unknown shore, a place I could find if only I wasn't so afraid to leave the safety of the port...
Have you struggled with staying safe and/or taking risks?
What advice would you offer someone feeling stuck in the port?