I was recently talking with one of my closest friends (Wendy, this is for you – the hardest working sista I know!). She and I may talk every 3-4 weeks or so, and when we do, we’re usually on the phone for no less than 2-3 hours catching up with each others’ lives. We talk about everything from A-Z and move seamlessly from one subject to the other. The other day, we reflected upon our personal growth and challenges in our lives and how important it is to step out of that place of comfort and familiarity – on faith and even with fear. As I listened to Wendy talk and share her latest endeavors, I realized why we’re friends. She and I are very much alike in that neither of us is unfamiliar with the unfamiliar – iron sharpens iron.
As I reflected on my life as it relates to becoming familiar with the unfamiliar, I realized that I have been living outside of my comfort zone for the past eight years. It really began with my divorce after many years of marriage. Talk about leaving the comfort zone! That was a shock to my system and it was a very scary time. I was no longer a part of a couple – now I was on my own. The irony here is that although it was about to become my new normal – as different and scary as it was – it was about to be the beginning of my true and authentic life and one of the best things that ever happened to me. That new normal became a gateway to a journey that I continue to walk to this very moment. My journey into uncharted waters led me to relocate several times, reconnect with old friends and meet a lot of new people on the way. The one new person who I met along the way who has made the biggest impression on me has been me! Yes, I discovered this incredibly smart, funny, vibrant woman living outside of my comfort zone and inside of my courage zone. I like her and in order to hang out with her, I’ve had to relocate once again. So, I’ve taken up residence in my courage zone, where she resides.
My courage zone wasn’t very far from my comfort zone in many cases. It just took some faith and calculated risks to get there. It was in my courage zone that I took the risk and moved to Atlanta in the first place. I came here for the opportunity to continue working in the area that I loved – writing. I only knew one person here – Willie Stewart, Publisher of Trendsetters to Trendsetters Magazine – my first professional writing gig (Will, thanks always for the opportunity and platform). For me, this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up and the fact that I was coming alone was a little scary…but I did it anyway. I’d left my grown up daughters and friends back in Florida, packed up and headed to Atlanta and I’ve never regretted it. It would have been easy to find excuses to remain in Florida where everything and everyone was familiar, but I would have missed the wonderful opportunity that I had when I came here to work. Things weren’t perfect, and the job didn’t work out for long, but while I was there, and even before I got there, I had the chance to meet and interview some incredibly amazing people, and write lots of articles for the publication. But, in order to do any of that, I had to take a risk – move outside of my comfort zone and into my courage zone.
Another bold step outside of my comfort zone was a long-held side gig I had after moving to Atlanta. A cool new friend (Thanks Kelli) that I’d met here in Atlanta offered me an opportunity to work as a mystery shopper for the transit system here. In other words, I would ride MARTA (bus and trains) as an ordinary passenger, but I would be observing customer service and system efficiency incognito and reporting back. What?! Hmmph! Ride MARTA? No way was I interested in that, I told her and I laughed and turned my nose up at it. She said okay and never spoke of it again until about a few weeks later. Once again she asked if I would be interested in making extra cash from mystery shopping. By now, I’d moved into a new place and, honestly, the money was sounding pretty good. This time, I didn’t turn my nose up at it and I thanked her for the opportunity to work. Let me tell you, it was a dream job for me and I LOVED IT! First of all, it was an ideal way for a newcomer to learn how to get around Atlanta. I had a car, but now I was also learning how to travel via public transportation if I ever needed to – which I have done many times since! Driving in Atlanta traffic is NO JOKE and having the ability to park and ride the train is a blessing! Also, I’m designed for “freelance” work – and this job was exactly that –no office and my own schedule for the most part. But here, I had to move outside of my cozy little comfort zone (my car) and move into my courage zone – which also was a source of income for me! Pride and ego ALMOST kept me inside my comfort zone! Not only can I travel by car or bus/train now, but I met some awesome people who also rode the bus and trains! Not to mention some very good looking bus drivers!
As I continue to think about how much I live outside of what is comfortable to me, I can’t forget about something on a more personal note. In a couple of my previous blogs, I have fun talking about such things as dating younger men and online (internet) dating, both of which I am very familiar with (check these previous posts out if you haven’t already!) Both of these things were big moves outside of my comfort zone! First, I hadn’t dated anyone in almost 20 years, so after my divorce I had to jump back into the dating scene – that alone was a daunting thought! Then when I realized that it was mostly the younger men who were approaching me and asking me out, it took me a little while to wrap my head around that. Online dating was so new to me. But another one of my closest friends,(Georgia, you know who you are), encouraged me to try it out. She’d shared some funny stories about her encounters and I decided to give it a try…and I’m so glad I did!
While I still haven’t met “the one” yet, I wouldn’t trade anything for all of the fun and laughter that I’ve had with online dating! If you’ve ever tried it, then you know what I mean when I say just reading the profiles and looking at the pictures is entertainment enough! And I have been on many meet and greets/breakfast, lunch and dinner dates with some cool people – some of whom I’m still friends with. Then, there’ve been the not-so-good dates, too and I even got “Catfished” once! But, once again, it was about taking a risk and trying something different…something new. And as far as moving outside of my comfort zone when it comes to dating younger men: Well, after I realized that the younger men were actually the ones who made me laugh out loud and brought the most fun into my life, I quickly decided that I was going to, once again, try something new and move outside of what was “comfortable” and normal for me. I’m so glad I did – no regrets at all! Some of my best dates and relationships have been with younger men and I’ve had a blast! My decision came down to this: I am determined to surround myself with people who make me happy: regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, etc. That puts things in perspective for me!
Oh, don’t think that I don’t still retreat to my own personal comfort zone when I need to. Everyone should. I don’t think we should ever completely get rid of our familiar, comfortable zones. It is here, in my comfort zone, that I return regularly to get quiet, replenish my spirit and my soul, renew my mind, hear the voice of and feel the love of my Creator, shake things off, rearrange, revitalize and restart my life when necessary. There is goodness, rest and peace in our comfort zones, but it is truly in our courage zones where real life and undeniable growth and joy take place. The only guarantee in the courage zone is that you’ll never be the same person you were before.