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Safe Scares | S.D. Henke

Whatever happened to the good old days of a safe scare?

There was a time we can all recall when we were allowed to traipse off and seek out real-world adventures. Many of us still long for the feeling of being shooed out the door into the wild wonders of freedom and the unknown. These are often the very experiences that shaped us. They invited us down paths of wanderlust attached to being unencumbered by rules and regulations. These were often the times when the strongest memories seeded themselves. The times when days dragged on in an eternal sort of intimacy with nature, where we were exposed to the elements. Opportunities where getting yourself in a pinch could quite literally grow an inch. More often than not, these opportunities didn’t arrive without times of trouble. Times when independence was tested, and things went wrong. We suffered bruises, bike crashes, and even snake bites, but a little fresh air and free-range folly turned out to be good for us.

I’m not advocating for anyone to take their kids out into the wilderness and drop them off with only a Slim Jim and a pint of Gatorade, but something is missing these days. I worry we may be letting the pressure off the ignition—snuffing out that natural inner fire when we don’t allow any room for what I like to call a safe scare.

What I mean by safe scares are the things that make us stop and think. When we ponder the moments to problem solve, question, and inquire. These are opportunities of decision making that could have consequences or lead to opportunity, but consequences that won’t cost an arm or a leg. There can be a healthy balance.

It’s hard to admit it, now that I sit in the trenches, raising my own kids, but the world has most certainly rearticulated itself since I was young. It’s tough to let go and allow my children to take on a world that seems less hospitable. In fact, it scares the hell out of me, but in the end, I realize the alternative if I don’t. We all need healthy, safe scares in order to grow.

We’re fortunate in the twenty-first century. We have the means to provide the First Aid Kit when it’s needed. The technology is such that we have access to one another in ways we’ve never had before, twenty-four-seven, but in line with that, we also tighten the noose. We all need fresh air to breathe. We need periods when we’re not a bunch of hovering hummingbirds blinded by our peripheral view. Safe scares are an important facet of growing up. Albeit, in today’s world in the safety net of the proverbial bubble, we also need expansion. We need to feel and embrace moments where we are truly at war with our capabilities and our compunctions so we can meet the challenges in the real world.

Books and stories can elevate our experience. They can help us reach the outer limits. On October 9th Pen Name Publishing released my literary fantasy novel, Story Bends. I liken it to a sort of simulated safe scare. I wrote it for families and children, for thinkers and provocateurs (in this new age). I wrote it because it holds a certain truth. Life can’t be all rainbows and unicorns. Beauty and enlightenment can rest in the darkest, most sacred of spaces. Tragedy’s tale isn’t a pleasant topic, but when told through a fantastical lens, it can open the door to realms of courage and intention. My hope is that those who read this story might see its value as a safe scare. So readers of all ages can see through new eyes, a source of light that can come out of the dark. Books, art, and music tell stories that provide this. We can live inside worlds of wisdom, without suffering real consequences, and go where the expansion of our bubbles can grow as far as the mind can see. The stuff of fiction can provide new avenues to add to our tool belts and give us, as individuals, a way to drop the leash.

As we enter a season of frights, a time when our fears can escape on a wild rumpus, I invite you to give your imagination permission to embrace the teachings of a safe scare.

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