Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
There are a few words that I could use to describe the last twelve months or so, but one word that stands out the most is ‘uncomfortable’.
The last year has included risk taking, change, and venturing out of my cozy little comfort zone that I’d been nesting in for some time with a great deal of complacency.
Some of the risks I took led to beautiful albeit ephemeral moments…there were opportunities for reward, but it’s fair to say I also screwed up and blew my chances in some cases…
This tumultuous year has been certainly filled with new experiences, some of which I’ve been comfortable with, some of which scared the shit out of me.
I’ve also made a number of new friends, people have entered my life, and some of them have left as quickly as they arrived, but that’s OK, I’m learning.
I can’t count the number of lessons that have been learned – there seem to be many on almost a daily basis. I’ve made mistakes, some of which were repeat mistakes over and over again, but again that’s all part and parcel of this so-called journey.
Many of the above mentioned situations made me squirm with discomfort – many of them forced me to get out of my comfort (aka ‘safe’) zone, some of them even made me do the opposite – retreat to my former safe place.
This may sound strange, but there’s something refreshingly inquisitive about escaping your comfort zone – there’s something raw about feeling uncomfortable – it reminds me of when I met someone for the first time; I was a bag of nerves, shaky and quiet…it wasn’t really me, but the situation dictated how I reacted.
I hadn’t realised that over the last eight years my voice had been stolen. I’d unwittenly slipped into quietness, a shadow of my former self, and I had made it my point to avoid doing anything that was remotely scary. I think the scariest things I did in those eight years were get married and do some MA studies in Adult Education – it turned out I was wrong to be scared of the latter.
Before I took all sorts of risks. Some were incredibly stupid, perhaps even reckless, but before you set out to judge me, there are very few people in their early 20’s who wouldn’t do the same.
In my late 20’s, after marriage, unbeknownst to me I was adjured to act in a different way. Instead of taking risks living life to the fullest like I had been, I transformed and played it safe. I did everything by the books and more. Safe was easy. Safe wasn’t scary. Safe wasn’t going to lead to hurt and criticism.
In this year alone, I’ve done, what I consider to be some scary things, given my circumstances. We were hardly into the New Year, and I took a huge risk.
From meeting people to telling people what I think, I’m happy that I took these risks even though they didn’t end in ways I’d expected. I’m thankful I had some amazing opportunities to grow and discover what it is and what it isn’t I want.
Even the stress of getting back up on a horse after about 18 years of not riding was incredibly scary (if you’re friends with me on Facebook, all you have to do is look at my face riding to see it). I couldn’t bring myself to get past a slow trot despite the trainers standing right there, despite Lavana (my horse) being a tame old girl. I was reluctant to go riding at first, because although I love horses and find them majestic animals, I also find them incredibly intimidating. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, and even more so watching my young students canter past me and lap me time and time again.
Another example was chatting to new guys after suddenly finding myself single. This totally threw me off course. There were parts of me that didn’t want to mess anything up and parts of me that just didn’t know how to act. Friendships and flirtations are two totally different things, and the idea of going about anything made me feel sick to my stomach – after so long, I just didn’t know how! Again, nothing really worked out, but I’m glad I had the opportunity, and now I know I’m definitely mentally prepared to date again. Some aspects of it will probably scare me at times, and I’m almost certain I’m going to find myself out of my comfort zone time and time again, but surely only good can come from this. There may be times in which I show a flicker of anxiety, but I think that’s normal – surely the right guy for me will understand.
I’ve also had some difficult conversations in the last eight months or so. Finally admitting to myself that it was all over was the biggest test ever. It took a lot of guts, and it certainly wasn’t something I felt comfortable doing – I’ve always been one to avoid conflict, but this was perhaps why I’d let everything drag on much longer than it should have – better late than never. In this particularly hard situation, removing myself far from the realms of comfort helped me grow. In essence, I learned to stand up for myself, I learned not to be the victim, I learned to be the old me again, and I learned that I had a voice.
I’ve had similar ‘difficult conversations’ at work. I’ve always shied away from voicing my own opinions for the sake of keeping a low profile in the office, but of late, I’ve opened up to how I feel and what it is I want, which I only view as a positive.
Getting uncomfortable for me this year meant that I had to learn how to adult a bit more. Instead of circumventing difficult conversations that make me feel uncomfortable, I stood up for myself when it was necessary and in doing so, gained a lot more respect from others.
I’ve also taken some creative risks; these are the ones that I’m most proud of. One of my goals was to find the right outlet for my creativity, which resulted in the birth of this blog, Couture & Vines. At first I was petrified about sharing my writing. It’s something I’ve never really done before – it’s always been very private.
I’ve helped my parents with previous business writing, but that’s never been my own words as such. I was worried about how people would react, what they’d say, how they’d judge…this is one risk I’m so thankful for. The response has been immense, it’s led me to become more authentic and to open up even more. By now, those who’ve been following me from the start will already have a picture of who I am, what has happened and what’s going on. What’s more, it’s also led to new jobs and new writing opportunities…so, feeling awkward has worked out for me in some ways.
Getting back to the gym has also been a challenge. I’d once been really into my fitness and diet, but I allowed emotions to get the better of me, and as a result I piled on weight and wasn’t mindful of what I was consuming. From being able to run for nearly 50 minutes non-stop to only a meagre 5 was disheartening. And this was one of the main reasons why I’d put off going back to the gym. Again, I challenged myself to do more. I invested in new gym gear and forced myself back. Slowly but surely I’m building up those times again, and hopefully soon I’ll be able to see the physical results as well.
If that wasn’t enough, taking up yoga was also a daunting experience. Thankfully, having danced when I was younger, it wasn’t totally a foreign concept, but the idea of strangers placing their hands on my body to help me get into the right yoga position was terrifying. Also, the idea of doing head to foot poses and the downward dog freaked me out too…what if I couldn’t do it? What if I fell to the floor in a useless lump? I quickly discovered I enjoyed it, and now I’m trying to incorporate yoga into my weekly routine. Leaving my comfort zone like this and trying something that I’ve never formally done before has proved to me that it’s totally OK to switch things up, in fact it told me that I should be switching things up more.
I’ve learnt that being comfortably uncomfortable can bring rewards. It took a lot of guts and I must admit that some of that discomfort didn’t feel that wonderful; at times I felt like I was going to throw up out of fear or worry, but I gave myself permission to work through those feelings of fear and worry while taking all sorts of risks, and guess what – beautiful things happened. New doors opened. New relationships began. New friendships started. New self discoveries were made.
If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.