The End of My Comfort Zone

Between missing my family and feeling unbearably overwhelmed at work, I have felt, lately, that everything is coming to a head. The pressure is rising. Something must change. 

You see, I've been assessing myself quite a bit. I recently performed my middle of the year goal check, and since then, I've been heavily focusing on my 101 Things List as my October 28 deadline approaches. And as usual, that self-examination results in the inevitable What the heck am I doing with my life? 

You know what I'm talking about.

OMG. I'm nearly thirty. I've barely accomplished any of my goals. What have I been doing all this time? 


I work as a nurse. I spend 40+ hours a week busting my tail in a nursing home. A nursing home in Missouri. Rural Missouri. How did I even get here?!? I spend my time away from the nursing home binge eating, watching reruns of The Office, and having panic attacks about going back to the nursing home. What. Am. I. Doing?!?!?

When one reaches this point, there are basically only two ways to respond: 1) Woe is me! I need more chocolate!, or 2) That's it. I'm making some changes. 

I suppose a combination of the two responses can also occur, because I must admit, I've been consuming an obscene amount of Enjoy Life chocolate chunks while stepping up and taking action. 

Yes. Action. Inspired by the quote on my favorite coffee mug (Life begins at the end of your comfort zone), I decided to step outside of my current comfort zone- which, I keep reminding myself, isn't very comfortable, with all the panic attacks and junk- and pursue the career I want. The one I've been dreaming about. The one I've gone into student loan debt for; the one I've been simultaneously working toward and avoiding for years.

So. I crafted a new resume. One centered around my English degree. I printed it out on some fancy resume paper. I got dressed, fixed my hair, and put on some makeup. Then I went out and faced a fear.

I took my newly polished resume to the only place in town that feels right for me: the library. With shaking hands, I passed it off to a lady at the front counter, who chatted with me about my skills and experience for about five minutes. They weren't hiring, she said, but a few staff members would be retiring in the next year or two, so she would keep me in mind. 

And that was it. 

Nothing happened. Nothing came of it. But I felt better about myself because at least I tried. 

And afterwards, I felt bolder. I felt more confident, more determined about my dreams and goals. If I couldn't get a job using my degree, if I had to keep working as a nurse to pay the bills, that was understandable. That would be fine. I could still use my free time to do what I really want to do: write. 

Hence, Bold Move #2. 

Remember how I wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo 2013? I wrote a 60,000+ word first draft of a supernatural-themed novel, planned to edit and revise it immediately, then abandoned it for three years

Why? The following quote from my NaNoWriMo blog post sums it up pretty well:

I'm scared to read what I've written. Since I haven't allowed myself to look back and read anything, I'm pretty certain it's 63,215 words of pure crap.

Three years later, I feel the same way. I'm terrified to discover how crappy my own writing is.

But there's a key word in that sentence. Terrified. 

I'm terrified to read what I've written.

That's what it always comes down to. Fear. Fear and comfort zones.

Empowered by my resume submission, I decided it was time to face this fear, too. It was time to edit. To re-write. To read what I'd written.

I took the advice of dozens of published authors and printed out a hard copy of my manuscript, one that I could physically hold and destroy with a red pen. Since it was a bulky 221 pages, I chose to pay someone else to do the printing for me. Staples. I ordered it online and felt so proud of myself when I received that order confirmation.

Then my package arrived. And with it, the reality of what I was about to do.

The manuscript sat on my desk like this for a good week, still in the shrink wrap.

When I found myself with an afternoon off, I finally sucked it up, poured myself a cup of coffee, and opened it. I started reading. Then I started crying. I had to put it down after the first seventy pages or so.

It was bad.

Gosh, it was so bad. So, so, so bad.

I decided I should focus on nursing. Writing crappy stories for fun was acceptable when I was twelve, but I'm a grown, married woman, and this attempt at a novel was just...sad. I had to accept that, to give up the dream, and to move on.

And I did. For approximately six days. Six dark, moody, bitter days of moping and pouting.

Then yesterday, Matt and I had the day off. He wasn't feeling too great and ended up napping on the couch, which left me alone in a quiet house. The again-forsaken manuscript called my name. I forced myself to pick it up once more, and I dove in where I'd left off.

And you know what? The second half wasn't too horrible.  I read all the way through to the last page, and I can work with what's there.

I think.

I was feeling super confident about it yesterday, but I woke up with fresh doubts this morning. I mean, when it comes to books, who cares if the second half is okay if the first part stinks?

I'm tempted to throw in the towel once again, but part of me won't let that happen. Not yet. Not until I play with the story some more. Not until I try to fix it. First drafts are supposed to be a mess, right? I'm sure that sifting through the garbage is supposed to be an uncomfortable experience.

Yeah. It'd be a lot more comfortable to forget it, call it a hopeless cause, and move on.

But I'm going for Bold Move #3. I have to try.

Because, as my mug so often painfully reminds me, Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. 

1 comment

Anna Marie Schaefer said...

Awesome post. Keep making bold moves! I miss you tons and tons.