A friend of mine recently moved away, to be closer to his child. As he left, many of his friends told him, “be safe”–the same thing most of my friends tell me as I leave them even for the often short journey home. And I say it too, sometimes. “Be safe!” It’s a way to say, “I value you, I want you to be okay.” And, in some cases, it makes sense.
But really, I don’t want to tell people to be safe. Oh sure, you shouldn’t be stupid– I’m not saying to take unnecessary risks–but to be safe? No.
Be dangerous. Be bold. Take risks. Do things you don’t think are possible, and find out whether they are or not. Be brave. Be well. Make change. Make noise. Make a difference. Whatever you do, don’t be safe.
In a week or so, I’ll make it to nine months living in Portland. I moved here with a duffel bag, a few hundred dollars, and the hope that my life would be better. Was it safe? No. It was dangerous, and risky, and it carried with it a high chance of failure. I was (and am) sick. I was (and am) suffering from a couple of different muscle and nerve disorders. I was (but am no longer) homeless. I was (but am no longer) jobless. I was (and am) better for making the decision to just go. To do.
The safe option would have been to move in with one of my friends who offered me a place to live until I got on my feet. The safe option would have been to stay where I knew I had a support system. The safe option would have been to bide my time, finding a job and a place and then moving, after I had already established the basic necessities of life. The safe option would have ended in me withering away, finding another go-nowhere job in Idaho, another place to live in Idaho, convincing myself that I didn’t desperately want a community of people who think like I do, who look like I do, who speak like I do, who love like I do. The safe option would have, eventually, killed me–if not literally, then at least metaphorically.
And that’s just one concrete example. Playing it safe stifles growth, creativity, and happiness. Playing it safe cuts off the channels in which the wild streams of our consciousness need to run. Playing it safe is staying silent in the face of injustice, because to speak is to draw attention to oneself, and in doing so draw fire. Playing it safe is accepting other people’s definitions and standards for your body and your identity, even when they’re wrong. Playing it safe is following a society that tells you no matter who you are, you will never be good enough. Playing it safe is denying yourself the opportunity for reward. Playing it safe is denying yourself pleasure, joy, passion, and opportunity. Playing it safe is denying others pleasure, joy, passion and opportunity. Playing it safe is to protect oneself at the cost of other people, and to lose oneself in the process. Playing it safe is dangerous.
Don’t be safe. Be good. Be well. Be extraordinary. Be you.