Beyond the comfort zone

January 24th, 2013

New Year’s resolutions Ń they’ve crossed everyone’s mind at some point this past month. I’m definitely a loyal participant in drawing up a list of resolutions on the last day of December, and mine are usually something along the lines of drinking more milk, hitting the gym everyday, not procrastinating, being nice to my sisters, etc. However, when I settled in to make my list this past New Year’s Eve, my goals for 2013 felt so menial. Even after coming up with a grand scheme of 15 things that would surely make me a better person this year, I still felt incredibly unsatisfied. I was trying to think of something that would somehow make my life everything I wanted it to be when I had an epiphany.

I’ve had those random moments in the past when I was suddenly struck with the meaning of life, and although I usually forget about it within the next couple of hours, this grand moment of clarification has stuck in my brain since that day. I realized that making simple responsibilities be my biggest goals for the year would not give me the fulfillment I am looking for in the prime years of my life. I’m sure most people have heard the famous saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Well, my new resolution is to change that saying into, “It’s better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.” This essentially means welcoming every opportunity for growth with open arms, even the frightening or unexpected ones.

How do I apply that mantra to my life? Well, I am currently making plans to study abroad next spring. I have always fantasized about living in cities like London, Paris and Rome. However, as a Spanish minor, I logically concluded that spending a semester in a predominantly Spanish-speaking country would make the most sense. I have also always had a fascination with South America, and when I learned about an exchange program in Cali, Colombia, I made a pretty snap decision that that’s where I want to go.

When I mentioned this idea to my dad, though, the first question he asked was, “Colombia? Like, Colombia, South America?” His skepticism was written all over his face. When I looked at my mom for reassurance, I could see her imagining all of the horribly dangerous situations I could get myself into in a country like Colombia, which is not exactly the place to skip down the street alone at night. Then, when my sister started crying because she realized I would be gone for an entire four months, I started to doubt my plans. I considered the reality of living without my family, friends, familiar locations or even the comfort of my native language. There would be no sense of familiarity or security, at least initially.

Not 20 minutes into pitching the idea to my parents, I had pretty much changed my mind about the whole thing. That is, until I hopped onto Facebook and saw a quote by Neale Donald Walsch that my aunt had posted. The quote was, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This, in my opinion, is a great perspective for anyone to have. I mean, I like to think I’m an adventurous person, but how far am I really willing to go? Trying a new dish in a new restaurant is pretty far from trying out a semester in a foreign country.

Thinking back to my dissatisfaction with my New Year’s resolutions forced me to consider that now is the time to push out of my comfort zone and take new opportunities head on. Not all of these opportunities have to be as bold as choosing to spend a semester in Colombia, but the point is to recognize that allowing fear to hold you back from trying new things is only going to result in a lifetime of regrets. My fear of missing the beauty of life is now much greater than my fear of failing or the fear of the unknown. So, I now encourage others to take this into consideration and ask yourselves: are you willing to take that step out of your comfort zone into the rest of the world?