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Disengaging with subtle Comfort

From a young age, I think that a great many of us have already experienced some form of departing from our own comfort zone (to some degree). This could simply be starting our first day at school; an interview for a new job; or going to a party that we might have been unusually nervous about. Though I am only 21 years old, and inevitably, have yet to fully experience the goings-on of life - particularly concerning wisdom and knowledge on how the world works - I have had a fair share of relevant encounters.

But what does it mean to disengage from our 'comfort zone'?

Noticeably, it should be made apparent that such a statement holds a level of subjective nature. The term in itself can mean anything to any person. Someone's comfort zone could be determined through their personality and tolerance to stress - amongst many other things, such as their background or upbringing, etc. Of course, in concrete terms, it means '... a situation where one feels safe or at ease'. Though this might provide some explanation on what it might be, it doesn't exactly summarise it perfectly. Going deeper, one should ask themselves, what does feeling safe or at ease mean to them? What is their comfort zone? I think that, from a certain standpoint, it has many determining factors. For example, it's through people's experiences, and their perspectives, that truly hone a definition, bereft from its concrete phrasing. Our engagement with life dictates what we do and don't consider to be 'comfort'. And our experiences, however traumatic or positive they might be, are the foundations of such comfort. I think that a great deal of us, from a personal standpoint, tend to shift into our comfort zone, even without knowing it. And, quite sadly, it's a place in which very little personal development occurs.

To me, my comfort zone is anything from shooting 35mm film; going to the same coffee shops; going on hikes; and even watching trashy horror films with friends. To disengage from these things would be to completely turn the tables, and to do things that aren't within my peripheral experiences. I think that, for a lot of us, we fear the unknown - irregular of how irrational and unreasonable those fears might seem. To do something out of our conditioned comfort zone would be crazy, and all right dangerous or stupid. But, however awful it might seem, leaving your comfort zone and entering unfamiliar settings, can posture a great many positive results.

Awkwardly perhaps, I would say that my biggest understanding of disassociating with comfort, would be travelling on my own. Rather cliché, I know.

If there is any advantage of going travelling alone, it is that - on the other side of it - we will have ended up doing something that heightens our experiences. Travelling can reveal so much about a person, and it allows us to navigate different perspectives, cultures, and traditions. Alongside, getting to meet some awesome people along the way. Upon finishing my first year at University in 2018, I was undecided on what I wanted to do during my summer. It was a cross between staying at home and working; inter-railing around Europe, like my previous trip in 2017; or to do something completely distinctive to my self-experiences in the past, to work abroad.

Unbeknownst to myself at the time, I would be wandering into an experience that would completely change my perspective. Prior to going I was, albeit, a shy and reticent person. I never took the lead, nor did I ever enjoy large social settings. I neglected any experience that would pose me into the spotlight.

The solution, working at camp.

Naturally, I was nervous. I felt unequipped and ill-experienced. Living on an isolated peninsula in upper New York State for three months, where the closest supermarket was a near 30-40 minutes away, was quite daunting. Not only that, but the prospect of meeting new people, campers, and taking on a whole list of unfamiliar responsibilities, was even more so. Not to forget the stark differences from Europe - a place I had never left prior. I was a photography and film teacher with no relevant or past experience. I had never worked with kids before, let alone sleep in a hammock. The entire prospect was completely alien, and quite frankly, scary.

Thankfully, Adirondack Camp - which has been open since 1904 - was not only comforting but incredibly supportive. It wasn't the daunting place I pictured it to be. Since then, and the two years I spent working there, I would go on to teach classes of children from the ages of 7-17; look after and mentor a cabin of young teens; and meet some of the most genuine and thoughtful people that I have ever met. Not only that, but each night sky was littered with stars; and every weekend we would host weekly house parties in large suburban houses, and spend the following days lazily swamped by rivers and small lakes in Vermont, desperately clinging to bottles of lukewarm water in hopes of easing the hangovers.

Beyond campfires and canoeing, being a camp counsellor was one of, if not the most, rewarding jobs I have ever done. It heightened my confidence, particularly in public speaking and self-expression, and also, rewarded me with the chance to do something different. It was my biggest stamp at disengaging with my comfort zone yet. Had I not done it, I don't think I would have the same perspective as I do today.

So, to note. Grow aware of what YOUR comfort zone is, and try to disengage from it. Whatever it might be.

Feel free to watch a Youtube video on my time there!

Artwork Cover: Vanessa Bell, 1913.

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