In the last ten years, our son has lived in six different cities and taken six different jobs, all with the same company, all promotions. He is a very quick study, so gets to know the highlights of Chicago, Phoenix, L.A., Boston, Irvine/Newport Beach, and San Francisco rapidly, as well as getting to know his new bosses and his employees. “But,” I asked him recently, “at what toll?”
To be sure, the changes create a lot of stress, he says.
One of the advantages of growing up is that each of us often has a choice about how much stress we’re forced to undergo. We don’t have to do calculus again or another class amounting to mental or emotional struggle. We can limit the activities that make us feel like a fool.
Unless we develop a disability. As a person who is deaf and blind, I am often not in my comfort zone. No matter how beautifully I keep up my guide dog’s training, he drags me to an irresistibly fragrant pole or pedestrian. No matter how graceful I want to be, I still gesture and knock over a wine glass. I step off the sidewalk and fall on a divot in a broken concrete driveway. My disabilities launch me often into a discomfort zone.
And then I’ve chosen to be a writer, which means rejection and then perseverance, perspiration. I’ve elected to be a teacher, which offers the possibility of mutiny, or at least challenge, so I prepare madly and constantly. I often feel too busy and don’t luxuriate enough.
But in my conversation with our son about the pressure he has been under for a decade, I heard myself saying, “But what would happen if you live most of the time in your comfort zone? What if you hadn’t been challenged and lived always in the same town, with the same job, seeing only people like yourself, doing only the things you were good at? How much would you grow?”
“I hear you,” my son said.
And my words struck me, too. Too much discomfort, and life could become unbearable. But there’s definitely a trap living too much in the comfort zone. How can we keep learning? How can we develop empathy, something that seems in short supply today?
With that said, I’ll step from the comfort of my laptop, a.k.a. pulpit, and head up to the busy shopping area of our neighborhood. I won’t face the discomfort of physical injury, but of embarrassment from my own or Dave’s mistakes. Ah, isn’t there a statute of limitations on this emotion?