A simple shift in perspective, a bold step towards the unknown, a gutsy effort to brush away discomfort and venture out: this is the prologue to my ongoing journey outside of my comfort zone.
Once, before coming to the Claremont Colleges and certainly before learning about the language lunch tables offered here, I found out about language meet-ups at a local café in my community and wandered in to see what it was like. Think Oldenborg Dining Hall except unfamiliar and with strangers two to four times your age. I knew no one and making my way to the back of the restaurant scared the heebie jeebies out of me. But after feeling the warmth of these strangers, the jokes, and the friendships, I kept coming back for more. I loved the place because I never knew who would walk through the door and strike up a conversation with me. A sixty-year-old polyglot in progress? An elderly couple with tales of their childhood in Vietnam? A French Canadian who taught Spanish in Mexico? All of the above.
I used to keep to myself on plane rides as I sat next to strangers. But I learned that each person has a story; maybe the quiet Russian buried in his newspaper next to you is actually your fourth cousin or Oprah Winfrey in disguise. Maybe that old lady who keeps smiling your way thinks you look like her only grandson. Perhaps the college grad napping two rows down just landed his dream job, which happens to also be your dream job. You never know this until you reach out, so one day, I tried it. I learned that the lady I was sitting next to, Hollis, helped manage major sporting events, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2012 London Olympics, and soon, the ones in Rio. It was an eye-opening experience to talk with her; if I hadn’t, she would have just been a nameless person in a nice sports jacket.
Getting out of your comfort zone oftentimes means making yourself vulnerable. It’s not painless, but I've come to learn that in many cases it's well worth it. True, we face the possibility of rejection, but to that I say:
1. The good far outweighs the bad. The ratio is like 19,381,023 to 1.
2. The bad that exists only seems bad—it could actually be the best part because it helps us grow mentally, emotionally, and personally.
3. So, there’s only good and better.
It takes strength to be socially vulnerable. But if you cultivate that mentality—not caring what others think, being unapologetically you, diving into the unknown—then rejection and failure will never stop you. By making yourself vulnerable, you make yourself invincible.
I am still a work in progress, but my ventures into the unknown have helped me become a stronger, more open, and more carefree person. Hopefully one day I can be both vulnerable and invincible, but preferably the former.