Out of My Comfort Zone

by Lisa Rosen on October 25, 2010

I went away for a long weekend, to a writer’s conference in South Carolina. I had a hotel room all to myself for three nights, and I spent the days going to workshops and panels, learning about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. I was with my people. You’d think I’d have come home rested and energized.

Not so much. I didn’t knit, I didn’t read, I didn’t run, I didn’t have umbrella drinks by the pool. I was focused like a laser beam on getting everything I could out of the conference.

I am re-invigorated, intellectually. But emotionally? I’m exhausted. Drained. Completely overloaded. Three days of making small talk with strangers, networking with agents and editors and published-writers-who-know-how-it-all-works, and basically offering myself up for rejection wore me slam out.

One of the authors–Joshilyn Jacson, whose Gods in Alabama is both lovely and heartbreaking–said something in a workshop that cracked me up. She said that on the Meyers-Briggs scale, she’s 51 percent extrovert, and 49 percent introvert. The reason that made me laugh is I’m the exact opposite. On that same Meyers-Briggs scale, I’m 51 percent introvert and 49 percent extrovert. What that means, practically speaking, is that I love people. Really, I do. I love to chat and flirt and meet and mingle and all that jazz. But after a couple of hours of socializing, you can ahead and stick a fork in me, because I’m done. Cooked. I want to just crawl back to my hidey-hole and talk to the people in my head.

But by Saturday afternoon, I didn’t even want to talk to my imaginary friends (which is fine–they understand when I need to be quiet). I was so far out of my comfort zone I actually had to go back to my room for a quick cry, just to decompress a little. You know you’re stretching yourself when crying is the only thing you have energy for.

And that was the best part, I think. I learned a tremendous amount, I made some excellent industry contacts, and I met several wonderful writers I’m going to try and keep in touch with. But what I value most, I think, is the stretch. Being there without a single soul I’d ever seen before, and pushing myself to be present and on, was incredibly difficult. It was WAY out of my comfort zone.

And it’s only when I get out of that comfort zone, that place where everything is predictable and easy and everyone already likes me, that I know I’ve really grown. Growth is hard work, but it’s worth the effort.

How do you stretch yourself and push your emotional boundaries? What are you doing to grow in your life?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Amelia October 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I’m so proud of you! Not that I wasn’t already. I’m always proud to call you my friend. 🙂
However, this entry surprises me. I never thought of you as someone who ever is out of your comfort zone with other people. I guess it’s because we always have so much to talk about and maybe, somehow, we just know when the other needs silence.
Compliments aside, I have learned tons about myself on the IM course. (I’m sure you knew I would say that.) Deep into the marathon, I am so far out of my comfort zone it’s not even funny. In fact, sometimes I wish I’d just slip into the delusional. One other time that I was ‘requested’ to get out of my comfort zone was for an assignment in graduate school. We were asked to be a part of a situation where we were the minority. Boy was that interesting. I went to a bar with some African-American friends and let’s just say there was some interesting entertainment there!

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Lisa Rosen October 25, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Getting out of your comfort zone can be really, really hard, but invariably, it’s worth it. I didn’t have too much emotional difficulty when I did the Ironman (perhaps because I’ve only done it the once, compared to your three?), but some of those ultra bike rides nearly put me over the edge . . . which is precisely why I kept doing them as long as I did. I wanted to push through to the other side of the anxiety. I know I’m a stronger person having done all that.
And thank you–your friendship means a lot 🙂

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Sonja Foust October 26, 2010 at 11:51 am

This is a well-known condition we call Conference Head in the biz. 😉 Been there, believe me! Be nice to yourself for the next few days and give yourself a chance to recover. THEN you can tap into all that great stuff you learned.

Good for you for going and doing even though it maybe wasn’t the easiest thing!

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Lisa Rosen October 27, 2010 at 10:51 am

Hi Sonja–
So glad it’s not just me! And yes, I did learn so much . . . Overall, a great experience . . .

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