Greetings from Missouri! I know it's been a while since I last posted, but things have been just a little busy...
A week ago, my mom and Aaron helped me pack up and move nearly all of my belongings to a new town, in a new state to start a new PhD program at a new school (the move went smoothly, by the way, except for the fact that my cat screamed the ENTIRE way and nearly lost a tooth in a moment of cat carrier panic). I have spent the last 7 days cleaning, organizing and decorating my new apartment, attending new classes on a new campus, and organizing a new office in which I started a new job (well, it's sort of a job, I guess).
Guess what? Change is kind of scary. But you know what's scarier? Stepping outside of my comfort zone, over and over and over again. I have lived in new places and started new jobs more times than I can remember (ok, I remember how many places I've lived in - 6), so you'd think I'd be a pro by now, right? I mean, I even moved to a FOREIGN COUNTRY, for goodness sake. Even so, the comfort zone thing still freaks me out.
For the last two years, I was living at home in the town I grew up in, going to school on a campus that I have walked around on since I was little. I rode my bike to school on paths and streets I was familiar with, I shopped at grocery stores and Targets that I knew well. If my tank was running low, I knew where the nearest gas station was almost anywhere in town. This move has forced (allowed???) me to step out of those major comfort zones, and while I am really enjoying school, my new place, and the town, I'm still pretty much constantly aware that my zone of comfort is nowhere to be found.
Today, I finally had time to walk over to the Student Rec Center on campus (which, by the way, is the NICEST rec center I've ever been a member of so far, by far), sign up for a monthly locker membership, and squeeze in a workout. For some reason, this was a much more intimidating task than it should have been. To be honest, I was totally dreading it. I didn't really know where the entrance was to the rec, how the check-in process goes, who I should talk to about the locker thing, where the weight room was, etc., etc. (Are any of you thinking I'm a big wimp right now?) And although I'm nearly 29 years old, it is still very uncool to walk around the rec center looking like a lost freshman who doesn't know where the free weights are. But... I sucked it up and did it anyway. I asked questions, I asked directions, I walked around until I found the free weights and I left knowing that when I go back next week, it will be a lot easier.
In all of my travels, moves, new jobs, new towns I have learned over and over again that the only way to feel comfortable in a new place is to actually take that first step outside of your zone. Then take a second and a third (baby steps are acceptable here), until you know your way around. You don't stay a freshman forever and the more you push the limits and force yourself to do things like asking the cute senior guy how to get to the locker room (that's just an example, of course), the faster a new place starts to feel more like home. And, it has also been my experience that forcing yourself to take a major step in a new direction every once in a while can lead to serious personal growth and new-found self-respect.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a new student get-together to attend for the Anthropology Department. I'm going to go meet all sorts of new people!