One of the things we have most in common which you’d be surprised to know is a preference for remaining in our comfort zones.
All through my childhood I wasn’t much of a daredevil or a risk taker. I didn’t like venturing out on my own. Luckily for me I had a companion– my sister. Now, she was a put-herself-out-there kind of person!
I liked being in the shadows, keeping to myself, safe at home. I certainly didn’t like wearing clothing outside of the home that called attention to myself and I didn’t like outrageous hairstyles or gaudy makeup. If it didn’t look natural, I wasn’t having it.
My sister had big hair, flashy fashion choices, big ideas, loud laughter in all places and craved attention. And she believed that we should be included in everything. I was like a turtle in those situations, wishing to tone it down and crawl into my shell.
I was contented to stay at home, read, listen to music, draw and imagine my world. She on the other hand insinuated herself in the world whether there was an invitation or not. Her boldness worked for her.
I tended to watch more than participate. Card games in the back yard, short bicycle trips spanning 3 blocks was as racy as I got. My adventures were in my head or on paper.
I never thought I’d travel much in my life. Until high school opened up a new horizon of opportunity. Band trips crossing state lines away from home for weekends was something which opened me up to adventure–chaperoned structured adventure.
Having been in band at my sister’s recommendation also brought me to having to compete in solo competitions which put me directly in the spotlight. I hated it. I still cringe thinking of the solos. I loved playing, but just for myself. The only way I got through it was to convince myself I was alone while performing. Block everything out and pretend I was in the basement by myself. It worked as long as I didn’t look around.
When I finally had to decide on college due to the family dysfunction I was compelled to get as reasonably far away as I could withstand. One state away was perfect. I chose where I did based on the pamphlets alone. I never visited prior to acceptance. I was going in cold. That was the riskiest thing I’d ever done. Sink or swim.
Mind you, I still didn’t have a license to drive and I had no way to get there except by the family driving me the 7 hours there. Again, even if I knew how to drive I wouldn’t have the strength of character to make the trip on my own. Each break I got more independent and would take the bus home. That was as brave as I got back then.
My mother’s aunt was shocked to know I didn’t know how to drive and she taught me. She was so kind and eased me into it in a manner which helped me overcome any fear I may have had. She always stopped by with a new vehicle so I couldn’t get comfortable with just one model. I drove a sedan, a station wagon, a truck and a tractor. Yet none of them were stick shifts. I passed the exams.
I felt independent with this new skill but owned no car. It wasn’t until my second to last year in college when I needed extra income badly to pay for my remaining time there did I finally obtain a vehicle. A turquoise pearl metallic and rust Manual transmission Corolla.
I had to learn all over again and retake the driving exam. It was as if I had never learnt anything. So stressful and I wanted to give up. My desperation to finish college thankfully overtook my desire to quit the pursuit of a license to drive in my college state.
Funny how a risk taken is usually fueled by extreme need.
I also needed a job and some friends were kind enough to sell me on the job they were doing as long distance operators in a call center. It was on the opposite end of town! I had to venture out to this place with only a route learned from a map in the back of a telephone book. There was no satellite navigation back then.
I found the courage to put myself out there and apply. I got the job and I became braver for it. Each step in my journey to where I am today stemmed from a great need. Taking a risk was the only way to get toward my goal of self sufficiency.
Each job opportunity was based on my fear of going into huge debt after college with no place to live and no way to subsist. I didn’t want to be homeless and I was certain I would die before I would return to my family to live.
Sometimes I had to put on an air of over confidence and fake it till I made it. Not my forte, really. So I worked crazy hours and read scads of books to learn my jobs as best I could.
Do you know the only time I had ever flown in a plane was as a baby at that point in my life? By my early 20s I had to fly to Texas to see my dad who was dying of cancer. Never traveled like that alone and had to research the shit out of the experience in order to do it; because,
Extreme need necessitates taking risks.
As I climbed the corporate ladder the expectations for air travel became the norm and I was flying all around the county. Sometimes with teams, other times alone. The latter scared me to my core. I had plans, schedules, maps, contingency plans, alternate routes memorized before I departed.
When I got to the destination, I rarely ventured out to explore the new city I was in. Stayed at the hotel when I wasn’t at the office. Though when with groups I went along, but they did the driving.
It took me many years to become comfortable enough to actually enjoy my surroundings and do some sightseeing. Luckily at this point, anywhere I traveled someone I knew from college lived there and they would guide me on my sightseeing experience.
When I look back on it all, I am thrilled by how much I traveled and all the lovely places I had the opportunity to see, the wonderful people I met along the way.
When I got sick I knew there was one last risk I had to take and that was a completely solo trip overseas to a country I’d never been and see as much of it as I could in 10 days as a local and not a tourist. It was scary to be on my own like that with just my passport and having to learn a new way to drive in a rental car where local laws were much different from ours. The currency was different. I had to learn all of that on my own.
It was crazy. But I loved every moment of it. It was a risk I chose to take not because of extreme need, but because of a desire to put myself out there. It took me 46 years to get to the same place my sister was her whole life.
I know where you are in your mindset to remain in the familiar, but I must warn you that life has a funny way of giving you a shove to take a risk and get out there.
If I had a chance for a do over, I would have been less conservative and traveled far more than I ever did. So much to see and do. Don’t waste your youth in a comfy shell.