I have been a complete ball of stress for the past few weeks… honestly, make that the past few months. I’ve been on high-gear since May, and I haven’t had much of a chance to slow down since. In some ways, I feel like a completely different person than the one who just said goodbye to half of her time in college, but in others I feel exactly the same. I’ve experienced so much since spring semester wrapped up last year, and I’m still on sensory overload trying to process a lot of it. Big changes often require big adjustment periods, and my high-intensity schedule hasn’t left too much time for those… which is a pain when those big changes are happening in just about every aspect of your life.

I have generally always been a creature of habit who’s very comfortable in her comfort zone. My problem lately has been that I haven’t had much of a comfort zone to turn to anymore. I’ve been finding that sometimes comfort isn’t exactly the best option, so I’ve shed a lot of those habits, routines, and comforts that have always kind of kept me grounded. This is one of the first times in my life when I’ve been ungrounded, which admittedly has been a little scary… when I start to get shaky, the closest landing place is still pretty far away. Running into some turbulence along the way has made me wonder what happens if I can’t get through it, but I’ve found it can be okay to be a little unsure. Always staying comfortable didn’t give me too much room to grow, and kept me bound to things that weren’t always the best for me.

Sacrificing my comfort zone has left me in an entirely unfamiliar place, and I have to write my own map to find my way through it. The change of scenery has made me feel like I need to scramble and get every single tree and river on the paper right away, but that’s just not realistic. Just like I can’t expect to be an expert in HTML after one web authoring class, I can’t expect to be an expert on terrain I’ve just started to explore. Sometimes I forget that I’m 20 years old and it’s okay to just take a break, wander around, and say hi to the wildlife. So much of the noise around me seems to be screaming that I’ve got to be thinking twenty steps ahead of the place where I am, but I have absolutely no idea where those next twenty steps will take me. I’m happy to report that it’s a beautiful thing to not know what’s around every corner I turn… or even what corners I plan to turn around next.

I am slowly learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, because shedding those layers of familiarity has shown me how much fun the unfamiliar truly can be. I’m learning that it’s possible to think of myself without sacrificing kindness or empathy, and I’m learning that I have a voice that’s worth listening to. Some of the comforts I clung to told me the line between thinking of myself and being a good person was black and white, and that I had to choose and that choice defined who I was. Others wrapped themselves around my eyes until I couldn’t see myself and couldn’t see any way forward without them. A few just kept me cozy and warm (I’ve kept some of those around because everyone needs a pair of fuzzy socks when that Michigan winter hits). Keeping those bossy comforts around was starting to make me lose confidence in myself, which probably should have been my first hint to make a change… but hey, comfort is comfortable, bossy or not.

Now, I’m proud to say that while my sporadic encounters with turbulence might be scary, getting through them is reminding me that I’m allowed to believe in myself. I’ve never been one to give myself too much credit, but I’m finding that sometimes, giving yourself credit is a good thing. It can get you through the times when your wings are shaky, and paying attention to what I’m doing right is slowly changing that comfortable voice that told me I wasn’t able to do it on my own. Discomfort is weird and new to me, but I am doing it on my own, which is an important lesson I’ve needed to learn. Sometimes I put on those fuzzy-sock comforts because a little touch of familiarity can keep you just grounded enough to feel safe enough to take the next big risk.

The person I am today is one who I am proud of through clear skies and turbulence. I might still have moments of sensory overload as I continue to sift through how I got here, but I’m learning to slow down and enjoy the spot where I am as much as I enjoy deciding my next steps forward, no matter where they may take me. I feel energized, confident, capable… heck I’ll even throw in beautiful. Experiencing my life from a new, skyward vantage point has pushed me toward a lot of opportunities I might never have had the chance to take. I’m still the same me, just without the weight of a blanket of unnecessary comforts. I’ve kept just enough of my comfort zone to curl up on the couch every now and then, but I’m glad to report that it never takes me too long to get up and draw a little more of my map. Navigating unfamiliar territory isn’t easy (at all), but so far it’s been a heck of a lot of fun.

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