Be uncomfortable. It’s the one piece of advice I wish I had been given as a freshman, and it’s the greatest lesson I am taking away from college. I’m talking about the feeling you get when you start to doubt your decisions, the times when you feel so unsure you almost back out, and that feeling in your stomach when you wish you were home sitting on your coach rather than where you are right now. That’s the good stuff. That’s the stuff I hate and love at the same time. It’s what makes me understand how a fish out of water feels, how everyone at one time feels, and magically enough, how growing feels.
I have learned that the best things in life come after feeling extremely uncomfortable and out of place- doing something without all your friends, swimming in the ocean alone, getting lost in a foreign city, switching your major, trying something new for the first time. our lives really do begin at the end of these comfort zones- those moments when comfort is broken and we are left vulnerable, standing there only able to rely on ourselves and the little we actually know. It’s at these times when we are able to see things for how they are rather than what we thought they were- the seaweed we thought was a shark, the new hobby we realized we love, the fact that we actually hate running, the class we took without any friends turns out to be the best class we have ever taken, the decision to walk away from something we have done our whole life- these are all uncomfortable, yet they are all things that make us realize that comfort is a limiting perspective.
After recently coming home from Paris, I realized I have never felt more uncomfortable in my life, and I have been through many uncomfortable situations. Besides the fact that my cousin and I got lost for an hour at 2am the first night, being surrounded by people who are speaking a foreign language, none of which I could understand, is both amazing and extremely isolating at the same time. So many people say that traveling is one of the most educating and humbling experiences, that after coming home you will have bags full of dirty laundry and insights, but after coming home with my bags full of dirty laundry, I was left feeling that my knowledge about the world was sub-par.
That’s the humbling part of traveling, it shows you how little you know about the world. 22 with a college degree in my hands and I felt as if I was learning how to ride a bike for the first time. But why do so many people do it? Why do people love going new places and seeing and experiencing new things? The answer I believe is a secret. It’s a secret we all find for ourselves as we step outside of our comfort zone. It’s small things we find out about ourselves, our limits, our capabilities, and our knowledge. It’s experiences that change what we see and how we see it. The best way I can describe it is that life as we know it begins with blurry vision. If you are born with blurry vision you are unaware that anything is wrong, you believe the world is truly as you see it, and you do not know what it is like to see the world clearly.
But to travel, ah, now that is adding in contacts or glasses, that is helping to sharpen your vision, to make you see things more clearly. Life as you know it is altered. The way you see things is changed forever. Yes, this may sound dramatic and as if you have heard or read this about traveling a thousand times, which you indeed probably have. But the part that pulls us back in, like a fish caught on a line, is these secrets. These small pieces we pick up along the way like souvenirs, these are the things that makes us look in the mirror and notice something different about ourselves- an extra freckle, head held higher, a little madness in our eyes- these are what we come back for again and again.
But here is the biggest secret of them all, the part that no one told me, that part I am glad to have figured out: nothing in life worth having can come within your comfort zone. Nothing. Nothing great comes from being comfortable or with a mind full of 100% certainty. Great people do things before they are ready, and similarly, great things happen when we aren’t ready. If everyone was ready for great things to happen, they wouldn’t be considered great, they wouldn’t be referred to as magic, and we would walk away unaltered, comfortable, without any extra change in our pockets.
So go somewhere, get lost for an hour or two. GO alone, go with a friend, go with a stranger. But go, because these secrets we bring back, these small truths we learn about the world, are as individual and unique as our own fingerprints. We can’t figure them out for each other, that would be nice though wouldn’t it? No, we must find them out for ourselves, and once we do, life as we knew it, life as we saw it, life as we loved it, is forever changed.