March 30, 11 pm. Time to NYC departure: 4.5 hours
The suitcase is packed and I lay in bed for a few minutes, trying feebly to get a few hours of sleep before waking up at an obscene 3:30 am to get to LAX.
I was due to fly out of LA at 6 am on Tuesday, 3/31. 3/31 because it was Aaron’s 26th birthday, and 6 am so that I could arrive in NY in the late afternoon, after Aaron had wrapped up his school day teaching. It seemed like the perfect plan.
But that’s only how it feels when you’re booking the ticket, when the flight is nothing more than a novel idea, weeks and weeks ahead of you…
On 3/30, even though my friends have reminded me why I’m embarking on the adventure, nothing gets rid of The Feeling. You know, the Out of Your Comfort Zone Dread feeling. Right before you do something big and different, all you think about is how nice and safe and comfortable it would be to keep your life exactly as it is. Maybe you wish you could crawl back into your comfort zone, lock and deadbolt the door and start a Netflix marathon instead.
It’s not my first time at the Out of Your Comfort Zone Dread rodeo:
It’s 2005, an hour before I led my first freshman orientation meeting. I’m at Chipotle alone, trying to compose myself and script out every detail of the meeting, half-terrified of what on earth I’d say to these new students in our first interaction together and desperately hoping they’d like me and enjoy our group.
It’s 2010 when I’m walking from my car into work for my very first day as a supervisor. I don’t even know what I’m doing with my own career, how can I help someone manage theirs? So nervous with the dread feeling, I think I might be sick. And suddenly, I was, and now I can’t really look at that planter box the same way again.
It’s 2014 when I’m about to fly to Asia by myself, and all I can think is how I’d rather stay put: the trip, this departure from the comfort zone seems so… unnecessary. Why go through the hassle and unknowns? I would have wished to tear up the plane ticket, except a plane ticket to Cambodia is pricey enough that my frugality would never, ever have the guts to tear it up, and it was an e-ticket anyway.
But here’s what I’m learning about the Out of Your Comfort Zone Dread. It means you found a way to grow. You found something different and important enough that your safety-craving side freaks out. But if you’ll push through the fear, at minimum you’ll grow as a person, and at best you might discover something unexpectedly amazing.
The freshman orientation group, the learning and friendship I gained from supervising, traveling with Tiffany in Asia…these were experiences I would never, ever give back, experiences that brought me to where I am today, and even writing about them years later makes me happy just to have lived them. It’s as if those scary moments that feel like they might kill us do quite the opposite by bringing us a little more to life.
So on March 30th, as the The Out of Your Comfort Zone Dread is raging, I’m trying to remember this feeling signals that I’m embarking on something significant.
For this New York portion of the adventure, I wanted the chance of a lifetime to live in NYC for longer than a vacation, spending time with my brother in that sweet spot of sibling-hood when you’re old enough to appreciate each other’s differences, and young enough that your life hasn’t gotten too complicated. I wanted to disrupt my routine and go somewhere new and different, to see what new thoughts, reflections, experiences would emerge.
But why on earth did I book a flight that requires getting up at 3:30 am when it’s 11 pm now and I’m too nervous to sleep? I could try and quell the fear and excitement and try for a few hours of sleep, knowing I’ll feel like DEATH in a few hours. Or, I could and start the adventure NOW, face the nervousness head on, on my terms. So I haul my suitcase to the car, but I’m wishing for one last little push out the door, one last little security blanket of sorts to take with me. So I walk over to our mantle, where I’ve kept “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” a parting gift from my longtime work pal Travis. I met Travis Day 1 of the Russ Reid adventure, and it was really moving to me, in a life comes full circle type of way, that he came alongside the departure and so deliberately sent me off to the next chapter.
So as the book says, “Your mountain is waiting – so get on your way!” It’s time to do this.
I arrive at LAX at 1:15. But who knew, security doesn’t open until 4 am, so you’re kind of awkwardly stuck basically in the entrance of the airport. I’ll admit though, I was okay with this little twist, because it upped the sense of adventure and let me indulge my odd desire to go into survival mode. I build a little faux-fortress out of those poles that they use for the security line, lace my appendages through all of my bags (so no one can steal them, obviously) and get some shut eye. Except for the really loud and irritating announcement on the loudspeaker every 40ish minutes. So scratch what I said about enjoying the unexpected travel twists; those announcements were terrible. But a few short hours later, I pass through security, hop on the plane, and by the magical power of air travel, take a nap that spans 3,000 miles to wake up on the other side of the country, ready for 44 days of adventure.
And ready for a good night’s rest that’s not on the floor of an airport.*
*I really hope I washed all the clothes I wore at LAX, come to think of it.