Monday, January 05, 2009
The Comfort Zone
I stumbled across an old post from Clint Watson's blog the other day, titled, "Be the Outside Zebra by Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone," and it got me thinking about comfort and security, and how sometimes you have to do what you don't want to do to get where you want to be.
I readily admit that I'm a "security freak" at heart. I gravitate toward the stable - I like having a stable job, a stable family, reserves in the bank for a rainy day, etc etc.
The funny thing is, when I look back at my life so far, the only decisions I would make differently if I did things over again are those decisions that I made to maintain my comfort zone.
I went to engineering school instead of art school because it would land me a good job out of college. I majored in Chemical Engineering because I knew the average salary out of school was good. I accepted a job in Houston with big oil because I wanted to have a job lined up before Christmas of my senior year (!?!?). The list goes on... (Disclaimer: this is not to say that I really truly regret those decisions - they've actually served me really well - but that's another post!)
When I look at the pivotal moments in my life this far - those that have made the most positive impact - they are all the result of big decisions I made that took me out of my comfort zone (way out of my comfort zone). These are the decisions that kept me up at 3 am, worrying whether I was making a big mistake.
There was the time I quit my high-paying job with big oil in Houston to take a lower paying but more fulfilling environmental engineering job in Colorado. There was the day I found out I was pregnant with Aspen, which happened to be the same day I got into my first gallery - a sign I took that it was time to give up engineering. There was the day I told my bosses that I wouldn't be coming back to work, that I was going to do the art thing full time. There was the day Nate quit his sales job to build houses, so that he could be at home to spend more time as a family. And there was the night Nate and I sat up late, drinking tea and watching the snow fall outside his parents house in Granby, and decided we could move to the mountains, that nothing was stopping us.
None of those decisions were comfortable for me, but they sort of had a domino effect. The first one wasn't that big of a move outside of the comfort zone, but it gave me the courage to make the next big decision. And that next decision gave me the the courage to make the next. And once I made a few of those decisions, taking control of my life became sort of addictive. So now here I am, living a life I used to joke about eight years ago, because it seemed so improbable. I used to tell my coworkers at Exxon that I was going to work five years, then quit to have kids and drive around and paint in the mountains. I wasn't really serious at the time (I had never painted a landscape, for starters), but I made it, didn't I?
That's not to say that I don't still embrace my inner security freak, and that it doesn't work for me sometimes. I didn't move back to Colorado until I had a job lined up. I didn't quit engineering until I knew I could make money with my art. We didn't do the self-employed thing until we had a certain amount of reserve in the bank to carry us through the hard times. I didn't move to the mountains until Nate had already built three houses up here. And I still have my moments where I look at the daily news and wonder if we're completely crazy for trying to make it this way in this type of economy.
But I know that being uncomfortable is one of the best ways to get where I want to be, so I'm committing myself to leaving the comfort zone every once in a while, in my life, and in my art.
So, what would make you happy? Would getting there be uncomfortable? Is it worth it?