I never intended to teach myself about personal growth vs comfort. However, if you’re living right (and definitely if you intend to live abroad) that lesson presents itself and you have to learn how to handle it as quickly as possible.
When I was 18 and starting college, I moved into my dorms all on my own. My parents had decided not to go with me, so I flew to Colorado with my entire life stuffed into two military sized duffel bags. Imagine how much 18 years of life weighs…. That’s basically what I ended up dragging through Denver International Airport searching for my SuperShuttle. (Symbolic, if I do say so myself.) After dragging these two absurdly overweight bags across the length of the airport 3 times, I finally let someone help me. I think he saw the desperation in my face after flipping my luggage cart and could hear the waterfall of tears on their way. Whatever the reason, he quickly helped me with my luggage and pointed me in the right direction.
When I reached my dorm in Boulder, I still had to drag that god awful baggage around with me all on my lonesome. Yet somehow, I felt like all the other kids were in the same boat as me (shout out to my bestie Lily who I met in the elevator! “I think you’re my roommate…”). They had their parents one extra day than I did, but in the end, we were all going to have to make it on our own starting Monday. There was comfort in that kind of commodary. It was unknown and scary but also exciting; that’s the beauty of the American college culture. It forces you to be independent and milk it for all it’s worth. However, not even moving to college could have prepared me for this kind of magnitude….
My first night in Bogota last April was cold and rainy and I wasn’t sure how to feel. The weeks leading up to my move had been a blur of parties and friends and champagne and doing what I do best: ignoring all conflicting thoughts and feelings I was having. I was so afraid of talking myself out of this whole ordeal that I never once thought “what if I don’t make friends?” or “what if I don’t adjust?”… I didn’t even wonder that I might be lonely and miss my family. I actually didn’t think at all. If there has ever been a decision made blindly, this was it.
So when I got to my new home, I turned my phone on airplane mode, took a cold shower (the water heater wasn’t working that night and I was extremely bitter about it), and crawled into a bed so firm and so unlike my own that I immediately burst into tears. What the fuckkkk did I just do?
THAT is what getting out of your comfort zone feels like and that is where personal growth starts. It’s a cold slap in the face that takes everything you’ve ever known or felt and flips it upside down, shakes you out and then drags you down the street stripped of all humility. Alright… maybe not that intense… but at first, it feels like it.
Perhaps you’re strong and determined and that kind of uncertainty excites you–but don’t doubt that (at least the first time) you’ll feel glimmers of fear or doubtfulness about your choice. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay. You’re growing. I’m here to tell you, from my very raw experience, that it’s worth it. You’re to live and feel and grow in ways that would never be able to without this decision. You’ll create experience that will live with you forever and you’ll share them with loved ones when you’re old. Maybe you’re going to find something or someone that you didn’t even know you were looking for. That person might be yourself.
So stick with it. Don’t go home. There’s still a lot more to explore.