Leaving my Comfort Zone

My new life living abroad has caused me to leave my comfort zone in a big way.  When I think of my life back in Utah, it’s like I was wearing a huge, fluffy, fleece blanket.  It was warm and comfy and familiar.  I loved that fleece blanket.  Moving abroad has meant throwing off that blanket and leaving my comfort zone.  That comfort zone included dear friends and family nearby.  It was a neighborhood full of people who thought and acted much like I did.  It included streets and locations that I knew; vistas I had lived with most of my life.

Now, I leave my comfort zone every time I leave my house and drive through Taipei, on streets I’m unfamiliar with and with street signs I can’t read.  I leave my comfort zone when I figure out my way around town on the subway and on buses.  I leave my comfort zone when I walk up to someone on the street and ask for directions with my very limited Chinese.  The whole process of learning a new language means leaving my comfort zone.  In order to learn a language you have to allow yourself to look stupid.  Making mistakes is part of the process and often times that means opening yourself up to blank stares as people try to figure out what you just said and even standing there as people laugh at your mistakes.  Trust me, it can be hard on the ego.

I leave my comfort zone every time I get on the scooter and drive, white knuckled, down the thin, winding back road to Tianmu.  I leave my comfort zone when I go into a grocery store and try to figure out what things are and how I can make them into something that my family will eat.

My new life is full of unfamiliarity.  I’ve had to throw off that warm fleece blanket and stretch out my arms and legs.  I often face a new challenge and tell myself to take a deep breath and be brave.  But in leaving my comfort zone I’m gaining new confidence; confidence in myself and my abilities.

My children are gaining confidence as well.  Last week, my 14-year-old daughter became lost while riding the city bus home.  Terrified and alone (with a dead cellphone) she discovered that she had taken the wrong bus in this huge city where she doesn’t speak the language.  But she figured out how to retrace her steps and take a bus back to where she could catch a bus that would take her up the mountain to our home.  She arrived home late and shaken up, but she did it.  She made it and I’m really proud of her.  She learned an important lesson.  She learned that at times she will find herself lost and alone but her own brain and abilities can get her out of those predicaments.  It’s empowering.

I’ve also been empowered.  The old phrase “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” has become part of my mantra.  I’ve gained a lot recently and I’m grateful for that.  Recently, a friend from high school sent me a great quote from Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t consider what my family and I are doing as all that daring, but compared to that warm fleece blanket we were wearing around before, it is pretty daring.

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7 comments

  1. Diane · February 15, 2011

    You are amazing! I had mantra when we moved to the edge of West Texas away from everything familiar….”Bloom Where You’re Planted.” I had to work hard but it happened–and I was blessed to be enabled to do it. I’m seeing the same in you–you are courageous–and I’m proud of you! 🙂

    • Erin · February 15, 2011

      Thanks Diane. Love you!

  2. Lisa · February 16, 2011

    That warm fleece blanket is always within reach, you’re just weaving in some exotic colors right now 😉

  3. Lorisa · February 16, 2011

    Erin! Thank you for your post! 🙂 You are one brave woman! And kudos to Cecily for handling her situation on her own! What a trooper. I love the quote by Helen Keller. I’ve heard that twice today… the other time was at a funeral for a friend in my ward (he was only 28 and was killed in a motorized parachute accident). His family talked of all of the adventures he had in his life, and mentioned that quote. Thanks for keeping us posted on your adventures! We really miss you guys tons and can’t wait to hear more! 🙂

  4. Glen · February 17, 2011

    Hi Erin: white knuckle cycling, learning chinese, daughter lost in Taipei, far from friends and family….now if that doesn’t count for a boost in life’s experience I don’t know what will. And, it proves you’ve got guts and courage most of us only dream about. Anyway….I have Taipei on my Iphone weather and clock programs. I think of you a day ahead of us and I watch the days upon days of rainy days. Has the sun come out yet. And, I look forward to more wonderful stories from you and the gang.

    Love you, Glen

  5. Susan King · February 17, 2011

    There was a couple who were from our ward years ago in Cedar Hills and they served a mission in So. America somewhere. When they returned and reported, she said the one thing she learned was that Heavenly Father doesn’t really care much about OUR comfort zone…I didn’t find that too comforting. You are daring, and amazing, and missed…I love your posts…The ward is totally different now and you wouldn’t recognize a soul….just kidding! thought that might make you feel better some how!

  6. Debbie Andersen · February 22, 2011

    Sounds like you are having the time of your life. Thanks for sharing your insights. You are a brave soul. Margo has applied for a scholarship program that goes to Cambodia for a month this summer. I really hope she gets to experience life out from under the warm fleece blanket. . . but you have to admit. . . having your daughter out of your reach is a little unnerving! Bet you say a lot of prayers!!! xo deb

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