The learn something new category is one that people tend to shy away from when I ask them to write for it. Typically, they'll tell me they aren't an expert, and they don't want to miss lead people. For me, the only way to learn is to teach another, and if you are wrong along the way, admit it and find the better answer. That's all any of us can do, learn, fail, and try again.
This is one of the main themes in my novel, The Human Zoo. One of the main characters, Priya, actually enjoys running. She also is self-taught and realizes that she has something to teach others.
I hope you learn something about comfort zones and a technique to try to bust out of them in today's post. The posts in these categories are no way to convince you or prove to you that these people know everything. It's merely their personal experience while learning about something new. Whether that is understanding where your comfort zones lie or how to break out of them.
Please remember likes, comments, and shares are always welcomed and appreciated. I request that this is done with respect since all of the shared stories here are personal and sentimental to the people that write them.
The night Kasey reached out to ask me to write a piece for her blog, my first thought was a big 'ole "nope."
I am a reader, not a writer.
I have nothing interesting to say.
I will embarrass myself.
The thought of me putting something out there for others to read makes me very uncomfortable. Everyone will think it's dumb.
Plus, I know she has many other friends who are probably more than willing to dig deep into their souls and express their great ideas through writing for the world to see.
My decision was made. I politely responded with a "Cool! I'll think about it," and returned to TikTok binging or whatever I was doing at the time, knowing full well it was a no for me (Sorry, Kasey. Don't worry- I obviously will change my mind because here I am).
Four days later, I got the text. "Hi!! Did you decide if you felt comfortable writing a blog post for me?"
Shit. Ugh, she really wants me to do this.
The negative thoughts returned in the form of a tidal wave. What the hell do I have to say worth anyone's time?
Flash forward to Saturday. I had just finished up my long, winter-run with Michelle Obama motivating the shit out of me with her audiobook. I plug in my Christmas lights (I know, it's almost February), light a candle, and dip into a warm bubble bath to regain feeling in my cold fingers and toes.
Do you remember that show, "Run's House?" Rev Run (AKA Joesph Simmons, AKA former Run-D.M.C. rapper) would end each episode like this: He'd lounge in his tub with an absurd amount of bubbles and his handy-dandy BlackBerry, on which he would be posting some of his profound contemplations about life. To this day, I don't remember a thing he said, but trust me, it was * chef's kiss* on point. Anyways, I guess you could say I had a Rev Run moment (and an honorable mention to the new serotonin released from my run). All of the dots connected, and the idea fell into my lap (bathtub?).
I'd like to share my journey of how running has shaped me and pushed me out of my "comfort zone." Ironically, I will do this through the form of writing, which, as you all know by now, is pretty uncomfy for me *cue the slow jazz.*
Growing up, I loved my family, my home, and my friends. My high school grades ranged from A's - C's, the occasional D (probably in math). I swam for four years on the high school swim team, where I went through the motions, but you won't find my name on the record board. When it came time to look for colleges, I literally waited until November of my Senior year. It was a task I was dreading because I was content with how things were, and I absolutely hated change. This was actually a trait I possessed at the time, known by many who are close to me. I picked Bowling Green State University because it was close(ish) and reminded me of my hometown. My boyfriend, Logan, of 4 years at the time, planned to attend the same college as me; Life was good. I was content and comfortable. (Disclaimer: Absolutely no regrets to anything above. I made some of my life-long best friends at BGSU and married the love of my life, Logan, today).
Moving away to college, I went through the typical new experiences of "finding myself" and slowly started to come out of my shell. I joined some clubs, made new friends, probably partied too much, and decided to actually put forth my best effort into my studies, unlike high school days. Things really started to shift for me when my best friend from BG randomly texted me one July when we were back at home and asked, "Hey, do you want to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) with me?"
Um. What? Excuse me? Did you mean to text me? Like Kasey asking me to write for her, those tidal waves of thoughts came crashing down. The only running I had done up to this point was some sporadic treadmill workouts and the Color Run 5k (3.1 miles) in Columbus, where we run-walked, coughed up colorful powder, and made our merry way to the finish line.
I remember having the text all typed out to tell Kristina.
Thanks, but no thanks.
It sounds too hard.
It sounds like something I wasn't capable of.
It felt waaay out of my comfort zone.
But I didn't hit send. Something inside of me changed that day, like when The Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes. I knew and trusted Kristina, and I perceived her invitation as a sign that she genuinely believed in me and that this was going to happen. I called her and accepted, and then we got to work. We trained all through the end of Summer and all through the Fall. We didn't skip a single run. Our half-marathon in Cleveland got canceled, so we quickly signed up for one a weekend earlier in Cuyahoga Falls. We booked a hotel room, brought our boyfriends and my parents, and did the damn thing (with a time of 2:03:15, and yes, I'm still waiting for my sponsors to call me with a gig).
From that moment on, I knew undoubtedly that running was in my life to stay forever. Never before had I really ever put myself out there like that, vulnerable to the risk of failure for the gains of physical, mental, and even social growth. This was the first time that I had voluntarily pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I learned (and am still learning).
Running is uncomfortable.
Running is unpredictable.
Running is challenging.
Running is intimidating.
But simultaneously, running has given me the gift of growth.
The gift of patience and preparation.
The gift of self-reflection and honoring where I am at now.
The gift of connection to a new community of people.
The gift of feeling proud of myself, feeling powerful, and feeling accomplished
The gift of goal-setting (No, my high school teachers didn't pay me to insert this line. Goal-setting is legit, try it).
The gift of health, sunshine, rain, birds chirping, leaves falling, flowers blooming, sun beaming.
The gift of breaking out of my comfort zone on a daily basis.
It has now been seven years since I started my running journey, and for the past three years, I have been on the coaching staff for our local high school cross country team, where I get to fall in love with the sport all over again and witness new runners do the same each year. It's worth mentioning the time I received a random phone call asking me to coach, and the all-too-familiar tidal wave of doubt hit. I had the text ready to decline but dialed the number to accept instead, thank god).
My advice to whoever has made it this far in this piece- take it or leave it.
"Comfort-zone." We hear it all the time. It's a buzzword in society and social media. Please, please remember that it's a personal journey, and it's different for each of us. No one gets to tell you what yours is. This is important. It's YOURS.
The people you surround yourself with do matter. Embrace the people who are kind to you, support you, push you to be your best, and the people you can relax and be honest with. Lean on them and learn from them. Breaking out of your comfort zone is a personal journey, but it is definitely not one you want to do alone. If you have any toxic people looming around you, time to pluck them off like the dead leaves you are neglecting on your house plant. Look! Now there is more space for you to grow and less energy wasted. Win-win. They can go propagate somewhere else.
I've learned that going out of your comfort zone is not a one-time, fix-all, magical experience. Instead, it is something that you need to practice consistently, even if it is something small. For me, this is running. What's yours? It's possible you already have your "running." I dare you to hone in on this and dig a little deeper with it.
I am excited and curious about what lies ahead. I am happy with the person I am now and who I am still becoming. I thank running for pushing me out of my comfort zone (I promise that is the last time you read that word) and for unlocking so much more mentally than I could imagine. I am still just me, Heather. But I notice myself now taking more risks in different aspects of my life without letting the fear of failure stand in my way. The tidal wave of doubt occurs less and less. I write this as a slight pat-on-the-back to myself (something that makes me uncomfortable, whoops).
More importantly, I hope that at least one person out there can take this story as their invitation from me. Remember all of the invitations I almost declined but then accepted? (How the turn-tables. - Michael Scott) to get out there and start getting out of their comfort-zone (oops, I did it again).