Out of My Comfort Zone

I believe being uncomfortable from time to time is healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I like a routine. Daily patterns that serve to keep me on track and a bedtime that doesn’t push the early morning hours are my warm blanket but I have certain fears that I think need frightening.

For example, I’m irrationally scared of water. I think it stems from growing up by the ocean where the undertow took a few lives every year but I can be found playing it safe even in a calm and peaceful lake. I’ve realized I like to challenge this fear and do crazy things like kayaking or water skiing. It’s exhilarating to prove to myself that I can overcome. That it will all be okay.

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Before heading off to college I remember telling myself I wanted “no regrets.” There may have been a few unimportant decisions I regretted in college such as the 15 pound Doc Martin shoes and overindulgence at the frozen yogurt machine but for the most part I did it right.

However, when I think back on it all there was one big regret. During graduate school we had to find, apply, and interview for our internships independently and I had done so, making sure to include my highest hopes position and a back-up, just in case. When I got a call from a skilled nursing facility, one high on my rating scale, I happily accepted. However, a week later the university hospital telephoned. This was my highest hopes probably-not-achievable position and one for which many students competed. I asked for some time to make a decision because I had already accepted another.

Uinta Mountains

In the end I declined. At the time I was satisfied with my decision but looking back, I was intimidated. The hospital internship involved severely impaired patients of which some would probably die. It also involved work with tracheotomies which in my field is the only way you could actually harm or even kill a patient. The true wrinkle was that it involved a presentation to the entire rehab staff which included the medical director of the program and a few physicians. Public speaking is my Mt. Everest and that coupled with my inexperience in my field got the best of me. Sadly, this was the true reason I turned down the position. And I believe the loss of this experience set me back. To this day I am insecure when working with tracheotomy patients and I deeply regret not gaining that learning experience when I had the opportunity.

Fast forward seven years. Moved, married, two kids. After having kids I decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a few years. During this process I’ve learned new things about myself of which I had no prior knowledge, one of them being that I like to write. I started journaling, began a blog (thank you to each and every one of you who follows), and have been to a couple of writing “drop-ins.”

I’ve also discovered that writing scares me a bit and this is so perplexing to me. I desperately want to tumble out my thoughts and share my stories. But that’s when the rock in my stomach forms. I get nervous and think no one will be interested in what I have to say. I couldn’t decipher why I was feeling this way and then it hit me: I care if I fail. I would love for my writing to be more than a hobby but nothing in my past has told me I’m a writer. But why not? I’m capable of putting words on paper and in this there is hope. Possibility.

This coming week I’ll be attending my first writing shop and am anxiously awaiting the experience. I’m going to enjoy the challenge and seeing if it takes me beyond this keyboard and into unknown territory. No regrets.

Sunrise over Monterey.

In the end, running from your fears always catches up with you. In my second pick internship, the scapegoat one, I experienced everything I was running from: public speaking, tracheotomies, and sadly, dying patients. I survived it all and I’m an improved clinician as a result. We are made better for stepping out of our comfort zones. It prickles the skin and tingles the nerves but what would we be without something to propel us forward and push those limits?

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone lately?

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3 thoughts on “Out of My Comfort Zone

  1. Good for you , Ashley! I like this quote from GKChesterton: “I highly recommend getting yourself into hot water. It’s very cleansing.” 🙂 In any case, jump in the water–it’s the only way to learn!

  2. I love reading your blog, Ashley. It takes a lot of courage to publish your thoughts and feelings. I recently read an article about people who are happiest, and one thing they have in common is the desire to get out of their comfort zone and take chances. Thanks for the inspiration.

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