Now Leaving: Your Comfort Zone

By Brittney Wichtendahl

Do you know what’s comfortable?  Home.  Do you know where I’ve been for the past couple months?  Far from home. As I was ruminating on a blog topic (how to study abroad! German PR!) I realized not everyone will participate in foreign study in their lives and not all of us will end up in public relations.  What nuggets of wisdom then am I even semi-qualified to give thousands of miles removed from the comfort of my beloved Iowa City?  Since I’ve been living well outside my comfort zone and haven’t yet keeled over dead, I will now preach at you to do the same.

When choosing to leave my friends and family behind to learn a new language in a foreign country, I didn’t do it consciously thinking, “Yeah!  I’m going out of my comfort zone!”  It wasn’t a part of my Bucket List, I didn’t lose any bets, it’s just one of those opportunities that in the long run will be worth so much more than the things I’m sacrificing to be here.  Taking risks outside of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be something as major as moving across the world for a semester.  There are little things around campus that we all eschew because we think we wouldn’t be considered for it, or we’d look dumb, or it’s a Thursday night and God forbid we miss one Facebook photo shoot at Fieldhouse with our friends.

What this has to do with YOU, my dearly missed PRSSA friends, is that we’re unlikely to find success without ever getting uncomfortable.  Internships, jobs, and resume-building experiences aren’t going to just be placed in your lap.  You won’t already be familiar with everything an employer asks you to do—there will be challenges, it will be hard, and (gasp!) you might have to ask for help.  Looking failure in the face and accepting it as a genuine possibility is a big part of growing up.  Just joining PRSSA is a big first step; we all sat silently in the back for at least one meeting (or for me, a year of meetings) because the imagined repercussions of actually participating were far too daunting.

Since studying abroad, by far my biggest leap in almost 21 years, I’ve been doing all sorts of crazy things outside of what was previously defined as my comfort zone.  Internships I would have previously assumed I’d never be considered for?  Applications sent.  United States Senator in the airport?  Went up and talked to him.  These aren’t exactly ground-breaking, but once you’ve thrown caution to the wind and accepted that sometimes it’s okay to not be 100% sure of what you’re doing, you might surprise yourself.  Everything I’ve tried certainly hasn’t always gone off smoothly.  On my first attempt at traveling alone to meet a friend in Munich, I got yelled at twice on two separate trains and was charged 70 Euro because I’d printed off the wrong proof of ticket purchase.  There were more than a few, “I wish I could melt into the floor and disappear/ get me on a plane home NOW” thoughts running through my head.   I couldn’t go anywhere and had to make the best of my extremely uncomfortable situation and eventually I got to Munich.  Even when taking a risk goes completely wrong, you will get to your Munich (wow, I’m deep.)
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.  We’ve all heard that Abraham Lincoln lost like, a million elections before becoming President—way to go, Abe.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the connection between running the country and asking a professor to write you a letter of recommendation (I can’t be the only person absolutely terrified of that).  In conclusion, big rewards come from big risks.  Of course, so do your biggest failures.  Start small, your comfort zone’s not going anywhere.

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