Choosing a Meaningful Life over a Safe One

Photo by Dino Reichmuth

During my childhood, there were a lot of things going on that I couldn’t control. There was often chaos at one moment and deafening silence at another. In my teen years, I began to develop certain coping skills to get through things that I couldn’t change or even understand. These coping mechanisms were not necessarily the healthiest way to live, but they were definitely effective in helping me continue on.

If you were to ask me if I’ve been safe the last ten years (I’m twenty-eight now), I would answer yes. The moment I turned eighteen, I took control of my own life and stopped letting others manipulate it as they saw fit. I safeguarded myself against new threats and filtered the people I came into contact with to ensure I felt secure. I only engaged in activities that I knew would not sacrifice that safety. To be honest, in the beginning, it did make things more quiet and I was thankful for that.

But if you were to ask me if I was happy the last ten years, then I would have to confess to you that I was actually the opposite. I was miserable.

You see, there’s something I was never really taught about safety until later on in my life:

Safety may protect you from things you don’t like, but safety also has the capacity to bind you to an existence almost completely void of actually living.

As each year came and went, I continually found myself more and more unhappy. And each time I realized it, I would resort back to those coping mechanisms from my younger years and bottle all my agony up. I’m sure you might have guessed it, but bottling things up only works for so long. Like any bottle, it eventually fills up and starts to flow out over the sides. And when that happens you have a breakdown of epic proportions.

Those episodes of release are some of the worst times in my life. A period where all my pain, anger, hurt, and sadness are turned up to 110 percent and wrapped around my neck like a noose. But once it was over, I would always go back to the status quo. Somehow, the bottle would grow a little and allow me to store just a tiny bit more of grief and misery for the next time. It was a vicious cycle and one I regret ever creating.

A person who refuses to live freely and experience all that life has to offer (good or bad), withers away like a plant void of sunshine.

It took hitting rock bottom and the love of those around me to see what I was putting myself through by remaining “safe.” When I started down the road to healing from my past and my injuries, I saw that those coping mechanisms I was using since my teens were no longer of any benefit to me. I used them in the beginning to keep me safe, but when I left that part of my life and kept them around, all they did was keep me chained.

There are still days where I would rather go back to the comfort of those habits, but for the most part, I enjoy every single moment I can in the freedom of actually living. It happened at rock bottom for me, but I hope you don’t have to get there to see how devastating a choice it can be.

It comes down to this for me: Safety may offer you a life where you feel protected. But freedom offers you a chance to live meaningfully and wholeheartedly.

I choose freedom. I hope you do too.

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