Saturday, February 16, 2013

Is It Really Safe Playing It Safe?

Everything is a bit up in the air lately. It can be a little scary, a little uncertain, and a bit overwhelming at times. But, is that really so bad in the long run? It's good to be humbled at times. It's also good to know that no matter how well you think you have everything all planned out, life always throws you a few curve balls. If it hasn't yet, it most certainly will. But, those times, hard as they may be, are often the ones you look back on as being the best learning experiences.

I recently had a big birthday. It's one of those birthdays that starts out a whole new decade. It's easy to look back when you hit one of those birthdays and wish you'd done some things differently. But, would I be who I am now if I hadn't done it the way I did?

I come from a family that's highly educated, and the members have excellent, long-term jobs (decades, not years). Granted, I'm the youngest, by many years, and the most rebellious. I don't begrudge anyone for staying in a long-term job, or doing things the traditional way. But, I've never appreciated the constant comparisons ("Why can't you be more like...?"). What I've started doing recently, in a somewhat depressed mood at times, is to start doing the comparisons myself.
Fortunately, I've had a bit of a revelation lately. Even though I've had some great jobs, they've definitely not been decades long. I've taken pay cuts to do something that makes a difference, not just collect a paycheck. And I often think of one of my favorite quotes: "It's about significance, not success."
I was still fortunate to get a great education, but I didn't get my second degree until I was in my early thirties. In the process, I've also been able to work in everything from retail to chemistry to accounting to social services - and it all ties into writing. I got married too young, and stayed married too long. I spent many years totally on my own. I never had children. I've traveled all over the United States, and to several other countries...and plan to do much more.   

But, while most of the people in my family have huge bank accounts, they also don't tend to do anything with them other than watch the balance grow bigger. That's not me. I've been generous even when I haven't had much, and will always be that way. I've shared a lot, I've traveled, I've had fun. I've taken risks...some with good outcomes, some not. I've always known I'm smart, always known my potential. But, I've never wanted to use that in the standard way. Maybe it's the free spirit in me, maybe it's the redhead in me, maybe it's because I grew up all over the country, maybe it's because I'm so open-minded. Maybe it's all of the above.

So, in this next chapter of my life, as I change careers once again, and move forward, I need to remember not to compare. We're all individuals, and I'm just not an individual that plays it so safe that there's no new challenge, but a great pension at the end. Stability is not really as secure as it seems. Because in the confines of a safe, and sometimes boring life, maybe playing it safe is really the most dangerous way to play it.