I sort of don’t like admitting this too often, but I don’t really enjoy being taken out of my comfort zone.
Over the weekend, I went to Portland for a conference. Let’s get one thing out in the open: I’m not a huge fan of traveling. Call me a homebody, but I just prefer to be in the comforts of what I know best. But, I really needed to go to this conference, and the somewhat dreaded day of departure finally arrived on Friday.
I flew standby on a buddy pass—thanks to two very generous friends—but the idea of not being guaranteed a seat on the flight gave me a bit of anxiety. Uncomfort zone. (I know “uncomfort” isn’t an actual word, but from here on out I’m referring to all of the situations that made me uneasy as “uncomfort zones.”) Thankfully, I was able to make it on the first flight to Portland, though we will return to my standby anxiety in a bit. (You can chalk that up as foreshadowing.)
When I got to Portland, I caught a shuttle to my hotel, which turned out to be a much shadier establishment than the woman on the phone who made my reservation led me to believe. The television didn’t even get ESPN. I wasn’t able to watch any SportsCenter. Uncomfort zone.
I had some time to kill, so I took a nap and then went for a run before I had to head over to the college where the conference kicked off on Friday night. When I got back, I asked the guy at the hotel front desk what the best way to get to my destination was, and he told me to hop on the bus that picks up right in front of where I was staying. Public transportation is big in Portland, and I haven’t used it regularly since my sophomore year at Texas A&M. But, I can assure you that the College Station system isn’t very comparable to what I was about to deal with. I knew nothing about the city, had no clue what stop I needed to be on the lookout for to get off the bus, and I didn’t know the time schedule at all. Uncomfort zone.
After what seemed like a pretty long time, I got out my Google Maps to see how close we were. According to the blue dot, we were going the wrong way. It turns out I was on the wrong bus—homeboy at the hotel failed to inform me of a bus change I was supposed to make. The driver directed me what to do, and I got on the right bus, but it had a very roundabout way of getting to the college. My overall bus trip was one hour, 27 minutes.
Important note: The college is 4.1 miles from the hotel.
A very large man who reeked of smoke (major uncomfort zone) sat down next to me and began typing away on his little device. I figure it’s wise to know a bit about the individual next to you in such a situation, so I started snooping to see what he was so busy using only his two index fingers to type. First, he was commenting on news articles. I saw the phrase “dirty republicans” and figured he must just be really into politics or something. But he moved on pretty quickly and was then on some site called ourtime.com and typing in a box that said “flirt sent.” I chose to stop reading his screen at that point. I was grateful when he busted out his Wild Cherry Pepsi, because the smell of the soda helped drown out the stench of cigarettes just a bit.
I kept wondering how much longer I had to endure this ride—why are there so many flippin’ bus stops?? I’m generally very punctual and began to worry that I would be late for the conference. Uncomfort zone.
Overall, the conference went really well, and my reason for attending was fulfilled. I even got rides to and from the remainder of the conference and a ride to the airport Saturday night (yes, I rode with strangers, but I chose to trust the conference attendees over mass transit). But there was still that truth that kept surfacing the entire trip: I’m too attached to my comfort zones.
And things didn’t stop there.
I only had my hotel for one night, and for various reasons I had to stay at the airport Saturday night until my 5:40 a.m. flight to Denver on Sunday. If you want to talk about a real uncomfort zone, we can talk about sleeping across airport chairs and using a pair of jeans as a pillow. There were no open seats on the connecting flight to Dallas (remember, I was on standby), so I had to buy a ticket on a different airline to get home. (God bless my brother for helping me out on that one.) But there was only a 45-minute window from when one plane landed until the next took off for me to get from one terminal to the next and all checked-in and situated. Uncomfort zone.
There were so many points during this trip when I wanted to cry, and I think the main reason boils down to me being completely taken from the place I’m most comfortable. I can’t say I enjoy admitting my flaws, but this is something that’s not so great about me. It really hard to be in places and situations that make you feel uneasy. It’s scary.
And those are times you have to be brave.
I think God uses uncomfort zones to help us grow. I can’t say I’m a completely changed woman from this trip, but my eyes were open in so many ways—particularly in my aloneness. Because I’m not alone. I may be the most single person I know, but I had so many people surrounding me: Erik and Jade, who gave me a buddy pass, walked me through the process and got me on flights; my friends Laz and Disco, who were checking up on me, offering endless support and encouragement and keeping me entertained with their antics; my mom and dad, who put up with my crazy decisions and still always try to help me; my brother, who didn’t hesitate to take care of me and ensure I’d get home before Monday; Helen, Jill and the other woman whose name I didn’t even catch (I know, it’s horrible), who gave rides to a stranger from Texas; and my sister, who gave up part of her Sunday to pick me up from one airport and drive me to another so that I could get my car.
I may be taken out of my comfort zone every now and then, but the love I’m surrounded with can overcome any anxiety a person can feel. Because love is that powerful.
And that’s a comfort zone that’s with you no matter where you are.