I read these two quotes by Helen Keller recently:
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. – Helen Keller
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. – Helen Keller
After thinking about these two quotes for a while, I tried to look back at my life and see whether I have lived it as a “daring adventure.” It seems, to me, that my life has mostly been filled with long stretches where I sought security and safety, punctuated by moments when I made bold moves.
Ms. Keller is very correct that “The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” During the times when I was living life timidly, I was no more secure or safe than I was during the times when I was more bold. I could list bad things that happened during both safety and daring.
The difference, I think, is that during times of safety I felt less free, more confined. With safety as my goal, I became fearful of making the wrong choice. At the times in my life when safety was my priority, I built strong boundaries around myself and my heart. I did not dare to allow myself to make bold moves and found my world growing smaller and smaller. In an attempt to keep myself secure, I cut myself off from experiences which might help me stretch and grow and develop as a person.
In the past year, I have really tried to break free from this “security” trap, from the illusion that playing it safe would somehow protect me from being hurt. I have tried to step outside my comfort zone. I have tried to listen to people whose opinions and world view are very different from mine. I have tried to learn. I have tried not to be predictable. I have tried to take risks. I have tried to be bold. Of course, I have not always been successful. Still, I have made strides toward the freedom that comes from unlocking the chains of safety and security.
In many ways, my life is much more of a daring adventure than it was a year ago. With my decreasing vision, it was becoming so easy to play everything safe. At my last job, I was like a little mouse hiding in my office. Now, I push myself to get OUT of my office and be friendly and talk to people. It was very hard for me at first, but it had paid off amazingly. I am making really good friends. I love my coworkers. Through my little risk of boldness, I have broadened my work world from a little office with four walls to expand to include our entire facility.
Another example is the bold move of taking the bus. It felt so scary to try it, to get on the bus and hope it was going to the right place, to be among so many strangers (speaking so many languages), to get off at Main and Clinton (where so many people mill around). The first few days, it took every ounce of bravery in me to follow through. It would have been safer to make John or Emily or Sam give me a ride. John actually offered me rides every day. Somehow, though, I knew that I needed to take this step. Now, I am not afraid. Learning to take the bus, persevering through my anxiety, mingling with the other riders has expanded my world and given me the freedom of knowing that I can handle the unfamiliar. I can go anywhere. I am not trapped by my inability to drive myself. I am free.
Now that I have seen the rewards of these small attempts at risk and boldness, I want to continue to push myself to grow and learn and try and dare. I don’t want my world to be small and safe and secure. I want it to be a daring adventure. I am excited to see all the adventures that the next year will bring.