The Safe Choice

      When I bought my first new car, I knew exactly what I wanted. My dream car was expensive and entirely impractical. So, I test drove the safe, sensible car. I haggled over the car with good gas mileage, four doors, and trunk space. When the only available color in the standard sedan was gray, I should have recognized my mistake and walked away, but I convinced myself that the price was right, and I bought it.

      Six years later, the car that was meant to take me where I needed to go without complaint, died. The collective jaws of my friends, neighbors, and coworkers dropped. Everyone insisted the car should have lasted over ten years. This was not supposed to happen. I didn’t love the car, but it was the safe choice. The practical, reliable car meant to make my life easier kicked the bucket right after the warranty expired.

      I was left in need of another car. I could have purchased another middle of the road sedan (albeit a different brand, of course), but I decided to change tack and take a peek at used models of the car I had originally wanted but never looked at because I couldn’t justify a two door convertible that barely had room for groceries. I found a model from the prior year that had been a dealer’s test drive car. It had low mileage, no frills, was in my price range, and the color? Christmas Ribbon Red. Six years later, my dream car drives perfectly. I love it. I wish I’d realized sooner that the safe choice isn’t always right.

      Reasonable, rationale, and prudent choices are important. I make a lot of them everyday. I rely on sensible shoes. I eat sensible foods. I try to go to bed and wake up at a sensible hour. Playing it safe reduces risk, and can be beneficial, but as I’ve learned the hard way, the practical answer can also reduce (or eliminate) joy. Finding equilibrium between the safe choice and the choice that will make you happy in order to end up at the best option is important.

      Decisions are motivated by love and/or fear. I wear sensible shoes because I fear falling on my face or twisting my ankle in high heels (that would otherwise make my legs look amazing). Also, being comfortable trumps my need to look good. I choose to go to bed at a decent hour because I fear being exhausted the next day, and I love my bed. I eat sensible foods because I enjoy the taste of fresh vegetables and because I fear the reaction my body has to junk food.

      But when faced with a new opportunity, I keep an eye out for ways to indulge a more speculative option; to experience the joy that otherwise sensible judgements don’t offer. I’ve found that my impractical car makes driving to my practical job much more fun, and sometimes taking off for the weekend with friends when I really should be tackling my to do list makes it easier to face those chores next time. Veering from the expected when it really counts is a departure from ordinary to extraordinary, and by testing the waters of the whimsical, the frivolous, the foolish, and the experimental, you might discover something unexpected makes a lot of sense.

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