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.