Recently I realized that I was stuck in a box; my own frame. We all develop a level of comfort with the things we do, the people we interact with and the habits that run our lives. I’m comfortable with going to the gym on a regular basis, I’m comfortable with going to the same 5 bars every weekend, I’m comfortable with grabbing food with a familiar friend at a familiar place.
Then there are the those things in which I’m not so comfortable. Things that make you nervous, uneasy, or anxious. I’m not comfortable eating alone at a restaurant, I’m not comfortable going out to the bar by myself and learning something I’ve never tried before… so that’s what I decided to to!
Reflecting on my travels, I had no comfort zone on which to rely; every day was an adventure where the only thing I could depend on was that I had nothing to depend on. I was left to my own devices. That was the frame from which to operate. Comparing that to being back home, where I’m comfortable, I realized I was missing out on a whole world right in front of me, hidden by the walls of my comfort zone.
Ever since Argentina, I’ve wanted to learn tango. To the point of actually buying dancing lesson! I also found a local spot that offers 1 hour salsa lessons for a nominal $5 fee; I figured it was close enough!
Normally I might have suggested to a few friends that we go, hoping for companionship while flirting with the perimeter of my comfort zone. Some might have accepted, others maybe not. In the latter case, the idea would have likely faded to forgotten, only to be stirred up at some later date as a memory of ‘that time I thought about doing it.’ But, no, I was committed. Committed to breaching the boundaries of familiarity; to seek out something new and different.
The air was warm and dry. I walked from my house, toward downtown as an anxious tension built in my chest. The feeling made me think of what a baby bird feels like before jumping out of the nest for the first time; I was more or less shoving myself. I had never in my life been out downtown by myself; this was new territory.
I walked into the bar and was greeted by a vacant dance floor with two women, seemingly preparing for a class. It turned out they were preparing for a tango class, to be held downstairs. Even better! I spent the next hour learning two of the basic eight count sequences of tango. Taught by an instructor who I couldn’t tell if it was her Russian accent or meticulously controlled movement that I found more attractive. Hands together, arms clasping the back, stand tall, 1, 2, 3… Over and over we practiced and traded partners. I was told I was a natural and would pick it up quickly; I wasn’t sure if the instructor was flirting, or just trying to sell me on private lessons… probably the latter!
By the end of it, I knew I had found something great, I was definitely coming back! I had just opened myself up to a whole new world, full of new people and experiences; the walls of my comfort zone had been breached!
I find that we all seek safety. Perhaps it’s instinct, perhaps it’s how we were conditioned growing up. Growing up, we’re told not to talk to strangers, it’s dangerous. Perhaps true and as an naive 8 year old, but hardly the truth as a 25 year old. At some point you need to grow beyond the safety nets of you childhood and venture out; a metaphor for the broader aspects of life.
Comfort is death.