A lot of my blog posts aim to share things I think other people might like or find useful too. I like to share podcast recommendations, books on writing craft, and lists of books, movies, etc, I love. But, today I wanted to talk a bit about comfort zones and being an adult, because it has been so incredibly helpful for me to read about other people’s experiences of adulthood. It helps keep the imposter syndrome at bay a bit.
I’m at the airport right now, bags packed. I checked in on my phone, got through security, found my gate and waited several hours to get the buzzing notification on my phone letting me know my flight has been delayed. Airports, hotels, travel, figuring out how to get around a new city, these are things I’ve never had a problem doing. I’ve always been independent, willing to just go somewhere and figure it out a long the way, but that attitude hasn’t always extended to all areas of my life. Getting on the subway going the wrong way, asking a random person for directions, wandering around until I get my bearings, these are things I’m confident about. I’m willing to jump in and make mistakes. I’m trying to take the “We’ll figure it out” attitude and apply it to other areas of my life and have had varying degrees of success.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve found that as I get older, I’m getting a bit better at stepping outside my comfort zone. I went to my first writing conference this year and it was amazing. So, I volunteered at work to join a professional association and go to their big annual conference. It will be the first time that I am at a major gathering representing my company and meeting peers in my industry from outside of my immediate area. I’m excited to go (especially since the conference is in Portland, OR), but I’m also nervous about how many people are going to be there.
I’m not someone who does well in a crowded room where I don’t know anyone. It takes a lot of effort on my part to actively seek out and engage new people, to find some ideas for icebreakers that don’t sound super scripted or weird. So, I’m a bit nervous about the multitude of networking events and dinners on the schedule, but I’m excited to expand my professional network and to learn more about my field. Because, I’m actually pretty darn good at my job.
It was a weird thing to wake up one day and realize that I no longer felt like a little kid playing dress up at work. I know what I’m doing now. Not always, not with 100% certainty all of the time, but enough that I can feel confident problem solving and making difficult decisions. It’s strange, as someone who always felt not quite like a real adult, to realize that, at least in my work life, I’m a real adult that can be competent and confident. It’s taken a lot of hard work to polish my skills and deepen my knowledge, but the hardest part was the internal work. I’ve had to learn to pause when I pick up the phone to call a colleague for a second opinion, to ask myself if I really need it or if getting someone else’s okay just makes me feel better. Learning to trust myself has, I think, has positively impacted how I present myself, both at work and in my personal life.
I like to joke that I’m terrible at adulting, but I’ve come to realize that isn’t the case. I may not know what I’m doing a fair bit of the time, but I think the secret of adulthood is that no one ever really feels like they know what they’re doing all the time, like they’ve got it all figured out. But that’s okay. I’ll take my wins where I can get them and try to dust myself off from the stumbles and missteps. I look back at how I felt three years ago and realize that I’ve grown a lot, even if I couldn’t recognize that it was happening at the time. I guess the takeaway from this post, if there is one at all, is that you should keep challenging yourself, keep exploring new places and things, keep pushing your boundaries. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s okay. Those are just growing pains.