“As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” ~Robin S. Sharma
I recently arrived in my new home city of New Orleans. I came here for a change and to refresh my spirits, and I’m so glad I did. It’s truly an uplifting and unique city. Coming here certainly shifted me out of my comfort zone, as I’m originally from California.
However, what I know from past experience is that breaking free of what’s comfortable is an ongoing, step-by-step journey. Simply put, it’s not enough that I’m here. I have to consciously keep embracing this expansion.
When I first arrived here I felt that feeling of love and happiness I get when I travel to places that truly feel special. A warm, humid breeze blew past my face when I stepped out of my car. The house I’ll be staying in had a big blue door, and I’ve found bright colors and old fashioned, French Creole homes are the norm here.
As I was being checked into my house, some neighbors came out to let my landlord know her car was blocking their driveway. They all knew each other, so the exchange was friendly, and it ended with them saying they were having a party that night for an engagement.
They invited me to come, and I wanted to say, “Really? You want me to come? But you don’t know me and I don’t know the people getting married!”
There was something about their instant openness and receptivity that I wanted to question and second-guess. But they meant it. They really did invite me, an unknown and random person, to the engagement party they were throwing for a friend.
I went home and I knew I had to go. It made me nervous, as I would be showing up to a private event alone, without any chance of bumping into a friendly face. There would be no buffers. No safety nets. Just me. And that’s why I had to go.
I had to go because it would be uncomfortable. I had to go because we spend so much of our lives going out of our way to avoid this exact kind of scenario.
There are few things we dread more than feeling stranded and awkward in a room full of strangers. But the funny thing is, we’re also obsessed with this exact feeling—the feeling that life happens outside of our comfort zone.
You know those signs that say, “This is your comfort zone” and then have a circle drawn around the words? Somewhere outside of the circle it always says, “This is where the magic happens.” Yeah, you know. They’re kind of ridiculous signs. You cannot sum up what it means to get outside of your comfort zone in a quaint little sign.
Getting outside your comfort zone comes with intense feelings. If there are too many unknown factors we tend not to want to go into that space at all.
We do not think of magic and glitter when someone says, “This is going to make you deeply uncomfortable. You might feel embarrassed. You might feel alone. You might feel incapable and even afraid.” Instead, we tend to think of all the reasons we should say no to the opportunity.
Part of this is because we don’t see every uncomfortable opportunity as being worth our time. Why should I go to a random engagement party and be weird and make other people feel weird? The reason is because these little moments of discomfort prepare you for the big ones.
What you really want, that thing that really is outside of the circle and has all the rainbows and the unicorns, when it does show up, it’s going to rattle you and shake you up and turn your world upside down. But you can handle it. You can.
The best way to know you can handle it is to practice and show up when it’s inconvenient, all the time, basically saying yes to everything. You will get so comfortable with being uncomfortable that the lines will in fact blur and you will flow with life, at ease no matter how rough the waters.
After I showered and got myself dressed I walked like I knew what I was doing to the neighbor’s house. If you’ve never read up on how body posture can you make you feel powerful, you may want to. It’s honestly life changing knowledge.
I walked into the party and everyone was dressed in suits and dresses. I was wearing leggings and a cotton striped shirt. It’s the nicest thing I had. It was okay though. I was expecting to be out of my comfort zone. I was diving in, head first.
Had I let the clothing stop me, I would have missed seeing something amazing.
A man showed up to this fancy party in a sleeveless Fred Flintstones shirt. The shirt had a tie painted on it, so in truth, he may have actually dressed better than me. But it just showed me that all of the time we obsess over not having the right clothes or look or whatever is so absurd.
There is always going to be a person in the equivalent of a Fred Flintstones shirt, and more often than not, you’re going to wish you were that person because they are totally carefree.
After getting a drink I found a couple at a table that looked uncomfortable and like they didn’t know anyone. I descended on them and introduced myself with a firm handshake.
I let them know I didn’t know anyone, I was invited that afternoon, and I was just going with it. I had an okay time talking to them. Just okay. There was no magic. Eventually they saw some other people they knew and I was abandoned.
Everyone at the table was talking to someone but me. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew at this point my presence was weird. But you know what? No one has ever died from being uncomfortable. So I just rolled with it.
I sipped my drink, looked around, and considered if I should stay or go. I decided to hang out a bit longer because I wasn’t quite ready to walk away.
I lingered in the corner alone, probably looking a little creepy. I grabbed another drink and listened to a speech and I realized then that I didn’t want to leave. Being a little uncomfortable but surrounded by happy people, live music, and an amazing vibe sounded a lot better than being comfortable and sitting on the couch watching Netflix.
I then grabbed some food and saw a guy standing alone at a table. This was when I finally found the magic. Not the kind of magic that ends in us realizing we’re soul mates. The guy was actually nineteen (I’m thirty-four), and soon after I started talking to him his mom came over.
They were two of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I was so relieved I hadn’t run off when it got hard. I was relieved I was there, to meet this guy, who was so smart and interesting and who made me think, “Wow, I wish I could follow his journey and see what kind of impact he makes. I know he’s going to do something awesome.”
I was so delighted with these people who didn’t look at their cellphones the whole night. It’s been a long time since a stranger has given me that much of their time and attention just because. To feel a connection like that, with people I’d just met… magic.
Magic. Glitter. Unicorns. It was all there. I just had to ride the wave and let it happen.
And those other people who abandoned me and avoided eye contact the rest of the night? I bet they’ll never even remember meeting me. They aren’t thinking right now, “Wow, that girl was so weird. Who does she think she just is to just show up like that?”
This is something we tend to do—we think other people are thinking about us more than they are. And even if they are talking about me, it’s hard to care because I won’t go away from this night remembering them.
I’ll remember Harrison, the nineteen-year-old jazz cellist who would love to teach music.
I’ll remember his mom, who wrote and created a photography book around flowers and an abandoned house in Detroit.
I’ll remember twinkle lights in the trees.
I’ll remember the soft breeze on a warm night.
I’ll remember the unbelievable graciousness of a stranger who welcomed me into his home and his party.
I’ll remember the man at the bar who totally understood why I came. He had also read Shonda Rhimes A Year of Yes and he loved it too.
And most of all, I’ll remember that I don’t need armor in life. I don’t need to shield myself from the unknown. I don’t need to be comfortable at all times in order to feel I’m on the right path.
I just need to show up. I need to flow with what’s happening. When you show up, it’s amazing how the Universe shows up for you in return.