Goodbye Comfort Zone: Showing Up in Spite of Fear

Goodbye Comfort Zone: Showing Up in Spite of Fear

On Sunday, I leave for my first writing retreat. I feel apprehensive, excited and fine, a little nervous to leave my dog Alfie for a whole week.

During the retreat, I will sit in class full-time, studying the art of personal narrative. There will be yoga and hikes and meditations and healthy meals and other like-minded people. This will be a totally new experience for me. I took the typical writing and composition classes in school, but have never done anything quite this immersive. This workshop is meant to cut deep; to awaken.

It sounds so incredible. Yet part of me is filled with anxiety, feeling like I don’t deserve this, can’t afford it and shouldn’t be taking time off of work to enrich myself. This is the critical voice, negging me for investing in my own personal development.

Fortunately, there is a stronger force — my intuition — pushing me forward. Telling me I’m doing the right thing. Gently reminding me that this experience may not be a walk in the park, but it will ultimately lead to more growth than I’m capable of tapping into alone.

I am ready to get out into the world. I am ready to expand.

It’s taken a while to get here. Since entering treatment a year and a half ago, I’ve been in relative hiding; steeling myself against the outside world and the peanut gallery of the internet. I had to build boundaries and craft armor and look at myself in the mirror, repeating “I can and I will” over and over and over again until I truly believed it.

I’ve made immense progress, yet I know that there is only so much I can manifest on my own, locked in my room. Protected.

This retreat will be totally outside my comfort zone. And that is a good thing. As my favorite fortune cookie says, “comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.”

I think back to all of the times I pushed past what was safe and favored growth. The times when I didn’t listen to the fears, but instead tapped into the inner voice that said “go, do the thing. Shine brightly and don’t look back.”

It was always, always worth it.

One experience sticks out in particular. I was in law school and signed up for a voter protection trip to Ohio for the 2008 election. We were going to observe the polls in Cleveland, watching for funny business; ensuring that everybody who registered was able to exercise their unfettered right to vote.

The morning we were slated to leave, I woke up with a massive ball of anxiety in my stomach. I didn’t know anyone going. I didn’t know what to expect. And I sure as shit didn’t want to leave my safe little bed on the Upper West Side. I thought about canceling or no-showing. Yet, my little intuitive voice told me “amazing things are waiting for you on that bus. Get over yourself, get up and go.”

To this day, that trip is one of my favorite memories.

I can still feel the excitement of the Hilton ballroom where we spent election night celebrating with the Ohio Democratic Party. When it was announced that Obama won, the room went wild. We did celebratory shots with senators and I cried happy tears in the arms of a new friend, both of us clutching tightly to one another exclaiming “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it. A Black president. In America!” Even more powerful? We were able to play a very small role in all of it.

In one weekend, I made lifelong friends, had unforgettable experiences, and cemented my lasting obsession with politics.

I often reflect on that trip when I feel the discomfort taking over, begging me to cancel my plans and and stay in bed. Admittedly, I’ve been canceling and protecting myself a lot lately. Sometimes, it’s a necessary part of my self-care and healing. Other times, it’s the self-destructive tendencies taking over, keeping me locked away from a world that unfortunately, I know for a fact isn’t safe.

But when I really think it over, I know that safety is an illusion anyway. I was sitting on my couch tucked away in my apartment when I got the call from my dad that forever altered my life: “It’s your mother — she’s very sick — was life starred to Hartford Hospital — a stroke, or something.”

The truth is, I didn’t even have to leave the house to have my life ripped apart. Life can kick you down at any moment, whether you’re out there risking it all, or hiding in your comfort zone.

I don’t want to spend my entire life hiding from pain. I understand why my brain has this tendency. We’ve been through a LOT, and it just wants to protect me. But as I’ve learned, there’s no true protection from life or the world we live in.

So this Sunday, despite my apprehension; despite my fears, I will go into the great unknown. I will show up.

I will not turn away from the discomfort — something beautiful is always waiting on the other side.


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6 Replies to “Goodbye Comfort Zone: Showing Up in Spite of Fear”

  1. It’s so hard to strike a balance between pushing your boundaries and doing appropriate self-care. Ignore the anxiety and enjoy your trip!

    1. It really is challenging to strike that balance! Something I’m working on all the time. Thanks so much for your support!

    1. That was easily the best fortune cookie I’ve ever gotten. I keep the little message next to my desk in my office to remind me. Glad it resonated with you!

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