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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stepping Out Of Comfort And Into Growth

There are a few things that am terrified to do. I am not a fan of public speaking, heights or needles. Of course I have to experience all of these things in my lifetime. I don't want to to it, but I do. If I do it enough times, it gets easier and the anxiety around it tends to soften. I'm not going to say that I look forward to it, but it gets easier each time.

I mentioned the PBS series I was watching, "This Emotional Life" in a blog a while back. One of the episodes deals specifically about facing your fears. Once you face them over and over, they are no longer your fears. I suppose it's the same with dreams. Once you realize your dream, it is no longer your dream.

There have been a few specific moments in my life where I had to face something I wasn't looking forward to doing. At seventeen, I embarked on a month long Outward Bound class where I camped with a group of 10 other lost people trying to collectively find a way through the mountains. It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of my life. I remember freezing on a rock when I was climbing and couldn't move. Of course I had to trust the person belaying me who just took a 10 minute course in, "this is how you prevent someone from falling." I eventually made it up the rock, but I tell you what...it was not what I considered to be fun at the time.

We were sent off alone in the wilderness for 3 days without food or water (we could get water at a nearby stream) which was a welcome event after being around strangers nonstop for 3 weeks. It was a chance for my blisters to heal a bit and to be quiet. When it was time to leave the isolation after 3 days, I lost my voice. Once the guides hiked over to greet me, I think "uhhaaa" came out of my mouth.

Years went by and I graduated college, found a job and started working in a corporate environment. I would take vacations here and there and camp on some weekends but nothing challenged me the way Outward Bound did in my teenage years. Since I played basketball in college, I missed the camaraderie of a group of women coming together for a common goal. I searched on the Internet for something new to wake me out of my working life coma that would be challenging yet fun and included a group of people looking to do the same thing.

At the time, my weekends were filled with the excitement of flipping through adventure travel magazines and catalogs. I flipped through one sportswear catalog and found an ad for an all women's adult surf camp, Los Olas Surf (www.surflasolas.com). That was it! I was always sick of people assuming that I surfed since I was born and raised in Southern California. I loved to swim, but I never tried to surf. It was time to do something about it! I thought about it for a second and signed up. I decided to share a room with a complete stranger and spend all days with other complete strangers. For some, that might seem like a daunting task. I didn't care, I needed a change.

It's hard to describe the feeling of standing up on a surfboard for the first time. Surreal could be it. There I was...knees banged up from kneeling and falling numerous times. But for one brief second, I was up! I was standing and moving forward! It was like a drug...I had to do it over and over again. Of course, it's never the same but you want it to be once you get up, move forward and for one moment...euphoria.

Of course the instructors Julie, Kristy and Nicole can get up on the board in their sleep and ride it backwards...no lie, I witnessed it with my own eyes. I don't know if I would have stuck it out without their support. It can be a bit ego bruising once you try and try and can't seem to stand up for the life of you. They would give you a thumbs up for even getting out in the water to try. Paddling was cheered with a "right on! Paddle, paddle, paddle!" You really couldn't help but smile.

After returning home, this trip left me with a feeling of anything is possible. Within the year, I quit my job and decided to embark on the open road with my dog to explore something new each day. This will be my 3rd year of doing so. Of course I will document it here every step of the way. I would encourage you to do something that makes you feel uneasy. Do something that you always wanted to do but were afraid to do it. I can almost guarantee that you won't regret it.

Surfing again is on my list of 39 goals for my 39th year. I look forward to the challenge.

If you are interested to step out of your comfort place and sign up for an amazing adventure, check out:
Outward Bound (all ages, Men and Women)
Los Olas: Surf Safaris for Women
(photo credit = Cat Slatinsky)

What have you done that inspired you to change direction in your life?

4 comments:

Jennifer said...

Great post! Just what I needed to read today as I was dealing with a panic attack. ; )

The surfing sounds fun, but intimidating.

Hope you are doing well.

Jennifer - also starting my 39th year!

Alison said...

Thank you Jennifer! So many things are intimidating but if you are ok with laughing at yourself (in surfing you have to), it can be enjoyable. :)

Thanks again!
Alison

penfold said...

You really should surf again. The first few moments when you stand are amazing but when you finally get some speed and control across an open wave face it gets even better!

Alison said...

Hi Penfold,
Yes, I have it on my list of things to do this year. :)
I hope to stand up for a little bit longer the next time. Or, I should say...I hope to stand up. I look forward to it! Thank you for the comment. :)
Alison

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