It seems that my Facebook fees these days is chalk a block full of angry political tirades, depressing news of hate and violence around the world, or -inevitably- photos of cats.
However, my favorite Facebook feature that pops up nearly every day is the “Flashback” where Facebook pulls up some old post from that day from years gone by. Most of the time, it feels like Facebook is playing The Ghost of College Posts Past and I quickly have to scroll away from the embarrassing memory, but the other day I was shown something that was rather nostalgic.
It was post that I made two years ago when Jimmy and I officially announced our relocation to Finland. We had known that it was a possibility for a few weeks, but it only became official on that day, just one short month before our wedding.
I think I didn’t necessarily believe it was actually happening until then. I hadn’t fully mentally prepared up too that point, lest I expend the energy to wrap my head around the whole notion, just for it to not actually happen. That, plus I was spending most of my time and energy on wedding plans, thank you cards, and packing up my old room in my parent’s house (their house was on the market) -all with the dull notion in the back of my head that a move somewhere was inevitable.
Once it was confirmed and the appropriate people had been notified, we were able to share our news and start really wrapping our heads around the fact that we were moving to a city whose location we were not entirely sure of. We knew Helsinki was in Finland and that Finland was one of the Nordic countries (now I will never forget that, west to east, it goes Norway, Sweden, Finland) but we were surprised at just how far north it was- and that we would be rubbing shoulders with Russia directly to the east.
Looking back at this time, we knew absolutely nothing about where we were moving. Our only contacts- at the time- were through Jimmy’s work, so we were otherwise landing blind in to a foreign country where we would live out our first years as a married couple. The last two years have flown by in a blur of fur-lined down coats and airport buses.
These days, especially as jimmy has a new wave of co-workers joining from the States who are as confused as we once were, I have become particularly aware of just how settled I am here. I am conscious of the small conveniences that I now take for granted. Conveniences that- for a long time- were horribly inconvenient: finding the right ingredients at the store- or even which store carried what, understanding public transit, reading menus, asking the right questions. Even going to a movie, which was once a new adventure, is again an easy Sunday outing.
The moral of the story- or at least at this small part of the story– is that discomfort is temporary. And comforts can be found, molded and developed, if only you give it time and a fair chance. Your comfort zone is something that you have slowly built and developed, usually unintentionally, throughout your life.
My cooking-comfort zone used to end at a box of Kraft Mac’n’Cheese, but now extends to dinner parties with three courses – but there were plenty of bad dishes in between. I cannot even count the number of times I have speed-walked out of a store, face burning with the embarrassment of whatever stupid faux-pas I have just unwittingly committed.
But now, of all times in our lives, it is important to intentionally grow our comfort zones.
Undoubtedly, it will require a sacrifice from another part of your life- whether it be time, money or people. But if you are not doing something each week that puts you right up the edge of your fluffy, cozy comfort zone, you are missing out on some of the sweetest pleasures this world has to offer. It is where you will find the most fulfilling parts of your life.
You will scream and cry and shout and grin like a fool; you will fail, you may succeed, you will learn, you will grow.
In 20 years, you will look back and regret the things you did not do and the opportunities you left behind. I remember a distinctive moment in my life when I realized this and it changed the way I looked at my future. I was halfway done with my college education and on the fast track for a fat resume and a comfortable job. But I was given the opportunity to try something that -really, for the first time- I didn’t know if I would be good at. I decided I never wanted to live with “What ifs”. I went for it. And I never looked back.
Since then I have built my most important resume: one of things I thought I would never do. Or perhaps that I couldn’t do. Maybe in another life or another time.
Moving to Finland is one of those.
And all of the things that have come with it: unemployment, self employment, expat life, living far away form family and friends, temporary apartments, etc.
So each time a new kid lands in this foreign city, or a friend makes a necessary career change, or a bold life decision – a new hobby, a healthier lifestyle- I try to always congratulate them. And if you have ever made a change like this: congratulations to you! You chose experience over commodity! Adventure over certainty! Even though it may seem like a small step, it is something that so many people will chose to not do.
We are, after all, creatures of comfort. I think, instead, we should be creatures of discomfort, seeking the skinny little edge of our bubbles and – gently or boldly, but always intentionally- sticking our toe out to the other side.