Tuesday, 10 August 2010

How to return to your comfort zone

I hear this command a lot, especially in Christian circles: "Get out of your comfort zone." It's a good thing to hear when you're comfortable, but for people like me (who actually jump out) it can be annoying. In England when I'd hear a message exhorting us to step outside of our comfort zones I always wanted to raise my hand and shout, ""I am well and truly out. Now what?" I found that while there was a ton of resources to help people get to the edge of the diving board of faith, there wasn't much for the ones who actually jumped and found themselves flailing in the deep end. What I really wanted was acknowledgement that being uncomfortable is hard and not always very exciting.

In England, though it's a lovely place, I was uncomfortable much of the time. Especially at first. I was uncomfortable on our severe budget and not being able to buy big and wonderful things for cheap (though possibly unethically produced?!) at Target or Trader Joes or Costco like I did back home. It was uncomfortable not having a clothes dryer or a washing machine and paying $1400 for a 200 foot damp Victorian studio (ouch!). But deeper than this I struggled with being out of my element. It's difficult being a bold, direct, smiley and emotive American in a culture that is mildly suspicious of all of the above.

So...blah, blah, blah, England was outside of my comfort zone. BUT...while outside it wasn't ALL irritability and defensiveness. In almost direct correlation to how stretched I was I grew in other ways and in areas I was weak, like simplicity, contentment, quietness, patience and generally being a mores stripped down version of myself. It was all very rich and very good.

So if learning to thrive outside my comfort zone was a theme for four years, right now, back in Seattle and in a place where I'm enjoying familiarity once again, my question is how do I come back?

I'm so glad to be comfortable again, but the challenge now is not losing what I gained out of my comfort zone. I'm not desperately worried about it, but it's something I think about when I'm driving down roads I drove down 15 years ago as a high school student. There's something about being home that feels like I never left and I love this feeling, but I've got to remember that I did leave and what I learned.

I've only been back two months so I'm a work in progress, but here's what's helped me come back into my comfort zone so far: intentionality and accountability. It's a choice to remember not only where I've come from but also where I've been and who I've become. It helps to have Dan here too, my partner for the journey who reminds me (and vice versa) of the things from England we want to retain.

How about you? How have you re-entered a comfort zone after a time away? How did you hold onto what you'd learned while appreciating what you had once again?

{Photo by Cocktail_Hour from flickr}


Rachel said...

hi alisha!
I love this post! I'm not sure I have commented on your blog before? Anyway, I was just thinking the other day how hard it is to continually be affected by past experiences...they get lost in the comfort zone, I totally agree! I taught for two years in an incredibly low income community in Phoenix where hardly anyone spoke English and most kids wore the same shirt every day. Teaching in affluent Lake Forest Park is so different, and I have to say...a lot more comfortable sometimes. I find myself forgetting how hard I had to work in my first few years of teaching and how passionate I was about closing the achievement gap. I really don't want to lose that fire! So I am going to try harder to read books about inner-city schools, and try to stay in better touch with teachers who are still there. I hope that will help me keep perspective.

Rachael Randal said...

Although I believe that the fundamentals of what you will have learnt while away will now be engrained within your very character, I think it’s great that you and Dan recognise that it is important to retain those learnings now that you are back in your comfort zone.

As for me, I guess my comfort zone would be the people I am most comfortable with – Mike and my immediate family. When I spend time with my family after a long time away – as I am doing right now – it’s tempting to drift back into youngest child mode and to allow those aspects of my personality that I would rather lose – impatience, frustration, argumentativeness – come back to the fore. I know that their love is unconditional, so it’s easy to neglect to make the same efforts to be the person I hope to be. Awful isn’t it? Does anyone else do that with the people they care about the most?

alisha said...

Hi Rachel, thanks for the comment. I'd love to hear more about your time teaching in Phoenix. I feel really passionately too about closing that gap between the haves and have nots and totally agree it's easy to forget that not everybody has it as good as we do when it's not in front of our faces everyday. Right on for trying to retain that perspective even when you're at a "good" school.

Rachael, I hope that most of the lessons are somewhat engrained in my character. :) And I think it's very normal to let the people closest to you be the ones who see you completely unguarded. But it's great to recognize in order to work on it. Are you in England right now? I was just thinking about you and you're trip, wondering when it was. Hope you're having fun.

Nadine said...

I have to admit, you've just hit on one of my fears. When I do move back to CA, I don't want the last 4 years to just seem like a dream. I don't want to fall back into the old routines as if the years and life lessons never happened.

I don't really have advice as I'm not there yet but I hope to be aware to hold onto the things I have learned. Hope that helps!

alisha said...

Nadine, I think just being aware of what you've learned is the first step. :) And, as you can imagine, writing about it seems to help too!

TheLadyWhoLunches said...

Oh wow. A new look! I feel so out of the loop. Coming back now and ready to dive back into the blog world/life. Traveling around the last month was fantastic, but comfort zone is definitely what I'm craving. And I haven't forgotten about guest post. Glad to see you're happy in your new place. Congratulations and getting out of your box is overrated. I've been out for too goddamn long. I'm ready to be happy and comfortable.

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