Into the Discomfort Zone

Amy Munro is a senior at Skidmore College. She is a business major focusing on marketing and digital art and is minoring in sociology. She is a member of the Skidmore Equestrian Team, and participated in achieving the National Champion title (2013) and Reserve National Champion title (2012). In fall of 2013, Amy went abroad to Dublin, Ireland, and was able to travel and explore many other parts of Europe. She is adventurous, outgoing, smart and creative.

The comfort zone is a wonderful and ethereal place. It is populated with supportive friends and family, expectations that are very likely to be met, and an environment that is familiar and reliable. Daily experiences may be largely unchanging and one may have a dependable confidence in the schedule of upcoming events. It is a place where one can escape feelings of anxiety, uneasiness and awkwardness.

The comfort zone sounds like an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable place to spend some time. But how incredibly boring a life that would be!

Experiences would blend together, emotions would be unchanging, daily life would be stagnant, predictable and mindless. Life would be incredibly repetitive. How could one not grow tired of such endless monotony?

To go outside the comfort zone is an action that is courageous, anxiety-inducing and thrilling. It is an adrenaline filled experience and it is one that is certain to be engrained into the memory, for how could one forget the challenge of putting one’s own abilities and strengths to the test?

In an era fueled by technology and constant communication access, the concept of being out of connection very rarely arises. The instant gratification of a Google search or ability to immediately request a reply from a friend is a capability that is often taken for granted. Further, to be in a foreign country without any basis of understanding of the language or transportation system without this very means of communication is a notion that is terrifying and seemingly impossible.

However, I accepted this test. While on semester abroad in Ireland, which is an adventure outside of my comfort zone in itself, I made the decision to visit a friend from my American college in Paris. With no understanding of French, no cellular data or Internet access, and equipped with only the knowledge of typical French stereotypes learned through classroom teachings and films, I ventured into this country to navigate my way to my friend’s apartment.

This did not involve just taking a cab – no, that would be too easy! I was challenged to travel through the gigantic and imposing airport terminals of Paris, then to take a train to the underground subway system, where I would eventually arrive at a platform at which my friend would be waiting.

I remember the incredible anxiety I felt while completing this journey. If I took a wrong turn or boarded the incorrect train, I had no ability to contact my friend, as there was no wireless Internet available and my Irish mobile plan did not cover calls in France. As I did not speak French, it was difficult to request the help of strangers. I was reluctant to pose my questions in English, fearing a disdainful or negative response.

I ventured on my planned route with adrenaline bursting through my body. I was terrified of being lost and never found, of finding myself in a bad neighborhood, of being the new subject of a storyline similar to the movie Taken. As I stepped off the plane, took the shuttle to the main terminal, found the train and disembarked onto the platform sharing the underground metro, I reminded myself that I was steadily achieving the steps towards my goal. Even as I was jumpy, anxious, scared and eager to arrive at my destination, the constant reassurance that I had achieved yet another phase in my voyage kept me on track.

When I finally arrived to see the comforting view of my friend waiting at the final platform, I breathed out all the tension that had built up inside me. Until that moment, I had not realized how exhausted I had become; the constant bursts of adrenaline and hyperawareness took its toll on my energy.

That trip into the unknown was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. However, if I had avoided this challenge and stayed in the comfort of my apartment in Ireland, I would have never been witness to the exceptional art featured in the Louvre Museum, ridden on the Ferris Wheel at the top of the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, climbed the Eiffel Tower, tasted the excellence that is the classic pairing of French red wine and cheese, experienced the delectable flavor of macaroons at midnight after exploring the Christmas Market held on the foreground of the Arc de Triomphe, or attended a J. Cole concert in one of the popular underground hotspots for the young and trendy in France.

I urge you to throw aside the confines of your comfort zone and put yourself and your abilities to the test. After conquering this challenge, I am confident in my competence in journeying through difficult and seemingly impossible situations. Challenges that previously were overwhelming now appear simple. What’s to stop me from exploring any city or embarking on any adventure I choose?

The expedition outside of your comfort zone will be challenging, but it will also be thrilling, it will be eye opening, and it will be one of the best experiences of your life! Accept these challenges to explore and conquer your fears. These are the adventures that will encourage growth in your confidence of your competencies and will influence you to welcome future challenges and risks.

Experiences out of your comfort zone will be those that you remember the best, the ones you recall with extreme clarity and perhaps a mixture of anxiety and exhilaration. These will be the ones worth experiencing.

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