We are all too often apprehensive about venturing into the unknown. One of the easiest things in the world is to stay in our comfort zone; within the cosy and comfy blanket of the familiar. We question why we would step into the dark forest of what we don’t know, when we could stay in the recognisable landscape of the same old. Stepping outside of your comfort zone takes guts, but the reward is always so worth it.
I started thinking about this topic, and I mean really thinking about it, approximately 3 months ago. My brother and sister in law have been arranging a sailing holiday to Croatia and had been suggesting to me for about the last year that I go along. Without even really giving it any thought, I repeatedly declined (politely, of course). I didn’t like boats (especially following the unfortunate loss of George to a boat toilet, see post Everything I Know About Love), and I am not a big fan of the sea. Anything that lives in it, sure, I’m definitely fascinated. I was glued to the screen whilst watching Attenborough’s Blue Planet just as much as the next person; however that’s about as close to that watery world as I wanted to go. Leave the marine life to it; let’s not plop ourselves on a floating tub in the middle of the ocean where we’re akin to canapés for sharks, shall we? So it had been a polite but firm no every time they suggested I went along. Then about three months ago, something weird happened. I said yes.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a particularly boring or safe person. I like to try new things: venture to new restaurants, try out a new gym class, wear a particularly bold lipstick. All of those things are so mundane though, and do not- despite what I like to think- require me to step out of my comfort zone. If I don’t like a new restaurant or gym class, I simply don’t have to return. If I wear a bold lipstick and everyone laughs at me (never again wearing Mac’s ‘Ruby Woo’; thanks Dad for publicly humiliating me for that one), I can just take it off and make a mental note to myself that red isn’t my colour. No, I have always been sat comfortably in my comfort zone, and have actively avoided doing anything that scares me or makes me uncomfortable. Then last September, I turned 27, and had a mild freak out. Anyone over the age of 27 may feel they have the right to harrumph at me for panicking, as a few people did. That irked me. Don’t insinuate that I don’t have the right to a slight wobble- yes you might be having your own quarter or mid life crisis but that doesn’t invalidate mine.
Why was I freaking out so much? I usually loved my birthday, delighting in the attention and fuss that I demanded with it. Tiaras, cakes, balloons, parties; I usually wanted it all, but I was more than happy to just let this one pass me by without acknowledging it. I was going to be in Barcelona for a friend’s hen do, so it was easy enough to pretend it wasn’t happening.
With every birthday comes a little bit of nostalgia, a look back at the past year and a glimpse ahead to what is in the distance. I’d had a bit of a weird couple of years, and 25 and 26 had certainly not been one for the books. Heartbreak, anxiety, depression, unknowingly becoming someone’s mistress (I’ll have to write a post about that one day!) and a load of other shit which made for a pretty all round crappy couple of years. The biggest cloud that was hovering above me was the thought of not moving forward. If I bumped into a friend or old colleague who I’d not seen for a little while, my answer to the question “what’s new?” would have been: “Absolutely nothing”. Sure, I’d been on a couple of holidays, I’d tried a few new restaurants in Abu Dhabi, I’d gotten a pretty good tan circa summer 2018. But none of that was really worth mentioning. What was the problem? I wasn’t stepping out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t throwing myself blindly into new experiences which would enrich my life, and help me find the happiness I’d somehow misplaced along the way. I also wasn’t setting myself realistic goals, targets, or projects which I could achieve. Half halfheartedly telling myself that by my next birthday I’d have a boyfriend who wasn’t a complete muppet, or that I would have a bunch more friends, or that I’d generally just be happy was only really setting myself up for disappointment- because I had no direct control over those things.
My friend Elsie told me that every birthday, her and two other friends set themselves achievable goals to accomplish in that year. So, I decided to take a leaf out of her book and try this myself. On my 27th birthday, I wrote down a list of things that I wanted to achieve before I turned 28.
- Visit two new countries
- Go on holiday on my own
- Learn to drive
- Start a blog and write for the sheer joy of it
I had/have control over all of those things. I have no excuse to approach my 28th birthday and panic because I hadn’t achieved them.
So, this brings me back to why on earth I have agreed to a sailing holiday in Croatia. When my brother James mentioned the holiday again, I made a split decision there and then to go. Why not? It would be a new country, so that would be one giant tick off my list. The thought scared me, and I think that’s when I realised that the only way I was going to start finding the joy in life again was saying yes to things which scared me. Of course I’m going to have a good time: I’ll be on a gorgeous catamaran sailing around the Croatian islands with a group of beautifully funny people whose company I love. Why say no because I’m
shit slightly scared of the sea? That’s when I decided that this was the going to be the year I just said yes to anything that scared the bejeesus out of me.
Alas, I had unknowingly already decided that. Let’s take a look back at my birthday bucket list, shall we? Learn to drive. Might seem like a simple thing to most, but this was a big one for me. I have always been totally petrified at the thought of being in control of a car. I had resigned myself to public transport for the rest of my days. Until I realised how much that was costing me financially, and how restrictive it was not having my own freedom and mobility. So, it was time to learn how to drive. And I’ve not quite yet ticked this one off, but I’m not far at all; I’m about 3/4 of the way through and will be taking my test next month (wish me luck!). And wouldn’t you know it, I am bloody loving driving. Who’d have thunk it?
I’d like to finish this post off by letting you know how my dreaded 27th birthday actually panned out. I spent the day on the beach in Barcelona, playing volleyball and rugby. The female Barcelona rugby team were there, and tried to recruit me and another of the girls for their team. I belly laughed all day long, I caught the sun a little on my face, and I ate the most delicious paella I’ve ever tasted. One of my friends said to me that day that I had nothing to worry about, because life was only going to get better from here. I have a funny feeling she was right.
Any recommendations for where to go on my solo holiday?