A Dose of Discomfort

“I’m awfully sorry,” said Bilbo, “but I have come without my hat, and I have left my pocket-handkerchief behind, and I haven’t got any money. I didn’t get your note until after 10.45 to be precise.”

“Don’t be precise,” said Dwalin, “and don’t worry! You will have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, before you get to the journey’s end.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

On Saturday, my parents wanted to go to a nearby maple syrup festival and asked if I wanted to come. Problem was, the festival was extremely popular and you had to go early, so we’d have to leave the house at 7:00am. Plus, it was supposed to be freezing cold in the morning–cold enough for snow. Neither of those things particularly appealed to me. Mornings and cold? No way.

But the festival itself intrigued me. There was a pancake breakfast, and an antique show, and street vendors. I like pancakes, and I like antiques (old books, yes!!), and I like street vendors. There was an adventure to be had, beyond the cold and the early hour, and it became a struggle between which feelings were stronger–my dread of the cold or my excitement for antiques.

In the end, my excitement won.

I rolled out of bed, bundled up, and trudged out the door. After getting a warm hot chocolate and eating delicious pancakes, I was more awake and ready to go, and we started looking around. The wind was nasty, but all the antiques were inside, nice and warm. They had some really cool stuff, like pony-sized rusty horseshoes, old clay marbles, and a yellowed copy of Black Beauty and a veterinary pet care book that both found a new home. I also got a leather purse (my first purse ever, hurrah!) that looks delightfully adventurish and is the perfect size for carrying books around.

Do you ever get the sense that I love books? Just wondering.

But of course, if I hadn’t been willing to suffer through the cold and earliness, I wouldn’t have gotten the purse or the books or the pancakes. I would’ve lost out on a great adventure. As unfortunate as it is, some of the best adventures only come when we’re willing to endure a bit of discomfort.

I’ve been told this a lot, that I need to take risks and step outside my comfort zone. Most of the time, it just annoys me when I hear that line because they’re called comfort zones for a reason–that’s where I’m happiest. But sometimes I know that I should heed their advice, that the reward will outweigh the risk. It’s terrifying though, isn’t it? Putting yourself out there where you’ve never gone before.

I would love to be braver about a lot of things. I’d love to be confident enough to speak–whether it be reading poetry in front of an audience or speaking my mind every once in a while. I kind of wish I was brave enough to dance, because it looks like a lot of fun when you do it with friends, and brave enough to sing, because I secretly like to sing (but not in front of others, shh!). Even just being brave enough to have a normal social interaction without breaking out in hives would be nice, you know? There are certain comfort zones I want to push and expand, and it kind of seems silly that I find it so hard. How hard is it to read a poem, or let loose and dance, or speak up?

Really hard, thanks to self-consciousness.

I’m definitely afraid of stuttering in front of an audience, or acting like an idiot on the dance floor, or saying the wrong thing. I don’t even think it’s a fear of what others will say or think, but a fear of what I’ll think of myself. I doubt I’m alone in judging myself too harshly, and it’s a crippling factor when it comes to being brave.

If I’m ever going to step outside my comfort zones, if I’m ever going to go on a magical dancing-in-public adventure (join a flash mob, perhaps?), then I guess I’m going to have to suffer some discomfort. The embarrassment, the anxiety, the self-consciousness. But it has to get better with practice, doesn’t it? Eventually it has to stop feeling so terrible, right?

I mean, if Bilbo Baggins could go without second breakfast, elevenses, and luncheon, then surely I can deal with a litle bit of stagefright, can’t I?

One can only hope.

What do you wish you were braver about?

May you never sacrifice an adventure because a little discomfort’s in the way.

-Alex

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5 thoughts on “A Dose of Discomfort

  1. I love this. I wish I were braver myself – I’m such a wuss. But, as you say: isn’t Bilbo Baggins the greatest inspiration to all those who feel a little too small to do great things? :)

    • Exactly! He’s one of my top heroes for that very same reason. You really can’t ever be too small to make an impact in your life and in the world. You just need to find the right sort of impact to make, I suppose.

  2. I like going “clubbing” for the dancing part. To be honest, just think, everyone else there is pretttttty drunk and not really paying much attention. You can be as ridiculous as you want to.

    I worry about peoples expectations in different ways. Shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself. If the anxiety kills the fun, then I don’t think it’s about being brave…but just finding ways to have genuine fun.

    • Haha, that’s totally true! Not like anyone around you’s gonna remember your face come morning, let alone your dance moves.

      Mhm, I agree. There’s no reason you shouldn’t try to have a good time, no matter what anyone else is doing/thinking/caring about. Life is short, and definitely not long enough to waste time not having fun :)

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