By: Nikki Merriss, Senior
“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Roy T. Bennett
The quote above is on the back of a t-shirt I was given for a service trip with BREAKAWAY and I’m sure can be found in many other places. There’s a million reasons this quote is important, but I’d like to focus on what it means to me at the moment. Right now, this doesn’t just mean doing things I feel uncomfortable doing. I’m pretty accustomed to discomfort at the moment as far as my life is concerned. As a student who has worked as a camp counselor and orientation leader, has played a college sport, and has been a student leader for groups on campus, discomfort has become a way of life for me. For these reasons, I hold this quote near and dear to my heart. I’ve learned through my involvement that good things such as learning and personal growth develop out of stepping into the unknown. We learn from the scary experiences of doing things we’ve never done before, etc. Even with this knowledge, I still struggle with stepping into the unknown myself sometimes.
That being said, I have yet to seriously regret a time where I’ve stepped into the unknown. While sometimes I may not expect much from a situation or event, I always leave with something I value. It could be a friendship, maybe a lesson, or possibly even a new path directing me where to take my life next. But defining discomfort through the unknown is putting it too broadly. Sometimes we think we know how something’s going to be and make decisions based on that. This, I believe, is even more dangerous than simply deciding to opt out of something because of fear.
This brings me to defining what the quote above means to me at the moment. As a typical human, I attempt to predict the future and make decisions based on those predictions. The problem here is, people are really terrible at predicting how something might be. The average human who views the world with tunnel vision has a difficult time seeing beyond their idealistic predictions that skew reality. Like any average person, I’ve done this too many times in my life. I’ve said to myself, “Well, it’s a waste of time to go here because it was boring when you went to a similar place.” But how similar are two places really? Aside from the typical McDonald’s chain kind of place, most places are pretty unique and unpredictable. Additionally, does a place really matter? Isn’t it the people that you go to a place for anyways?
Well, as the typical human I am, I once again made a poor prediction. I was asked about a month and a half ago to help lead a service trip with Appalachia Service Project in Jonesville, VA for BREAKAWAY. Right away, I took the opportunity because I was excited to work with the chaplain at my college, and I knew it would add to my experiences as a leader on campus. As the trip approached, I began dreading it more and more. In all honesty, I just wanted to stay home, work, and maybe watch some TV. I recently finished a long term at school, and all I yearned for was a little relaxation. The fact that I couldn’t back out from my commitment was the only reason I woke up at 5am to load up in a van and help drive our group of nine to VA.
I guess I could have come up with excuses to not go. Maybe I could have said I was having family issues, or I might have even said I simply didn’t want to go anymore. Based on the situation, I wouldn’t have chosen to opt out and I am absolutely thankful for that. Because I went anyways, I built deep relationships with eight other wonderful humans, I was able to serve an amazing family, I learned some valuable lessons, and I made some amazing memories. Going anyways, and doing anyways is what stepping out of your comfort zone is all about.
Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t always mean doing something even though you’re nervous. It doesn’t always mean doing something you’ve never done before. I live in the Appalachian Mountains, I’ve served people before, and I’ve worked alongside the chaplain to lead students before. Going on this trip didn’t add a ton of newness for me. I wasn’t nervous, I didn’t go anywhere I’d never been before, and I didn’t think I’d be doing anything I’d never done before. Because of this, I didn’t believe, at first, that I would be missing much if I didn’t go on the trip. I didn’t expect to gain a ton from going, but I’m glad that this trip showed me how bad I can be at predicting how something might be. The trip I had over DTerm to Jonesville, VA was nothing short of spectacular and I am overwhelmingly blessed to have gone. I made friends, made memories, and learned a ton.
So I guess what I am trying to say here is that stepping out of your comfort zone is about doing it anyways. Doing even though you don’t always feel like it, doing even though you aren’t sure what it’s going to be like, and doing even though you’re afraid of the outcome. To me, there’s nothing more important in life than experience. We can choose to go out and learn by living, or we can just stay in and watch others live as the time passes us by. While sometimes it’s nice to just stay in and watch my favorite show, I am much more thankful for the times I decided to go do something even though there was a comfy couch sitting at home. By venturing out, not only do I have the chance to add a little something to the world around me, but the world around me also has a chance to add a little something to me. So next time you don’t feel like doing something, just do it anyways and see what happens. Maybe it’ll suck, but maybe it’ll be awesome. The 50% chance of it being awesome is totally worth it.