Somewhere recently I read one of those motivational sayings we so like to share on Facebook or repeat to our friends: ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’, it said. It appealed to me. It’s true, isn’t it? That adrenaline rush, that leap of faith, that jump into the unknown, that butterfly in the stomach moment when you do something completely unfamiliar and new. And these moments are essential in our lives because, like a kaleidoscope, they rejig the way we see things and show us a new picture and an all new way perspective we may not have experienced otherwise. They stretch us and enlarge our horizon. They give us the opportunity to see ourselves in a new light, what we’re capable of and who we can be. It’s mental and emotional yoga, every time, and no one knows this better than an expat, most especially, the expat ‘trailing spouse’. All of a sudden, maybe not even by your own choice, you find yourself in a new environment, your safe little routine world rocked by all the new things you have to adapt to, your tried and trusted support systems left behind. You walk the plank, wobbly at first, stare into the abyss, take a deep breath and move forward one step at a time and then, hey presto, before you know it, the frighteningly unknown becomes familiar territory, your confidence grows, you make allies and friends and there you are, feeling as safe and sure footed as ever, and yes, dare I say it, comfortable. Then, just as you’ve got to the point of breathing out and warming your slippers at that same old cosy spot by the fire, the whole rigmarole starts all over again. One after the other, we live more lives than a cat but, it seems, we still always land on our feet. Because we have to, because that’s how it goes and because we’ve learnt, sometimes slowly and painfully, how to adapt and thrive in this global world.
So here we are, all smug and pleased with ourselves that we belong to those who who embrace new challenges and who grow as people in the process. But is this little saying actually really true? Sure it is when you’re considering bungee jumping or trekking through Upper Mongolia or learning Swahili but tell a child in Syria that life takes place outside the comfort zone or the old man in the favela struggling to survive from one day to the next or the person battling disease and illness and then it becomes blatantly untrue, even superficial. Sometimes life begins not when we leave but when we finally enter our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s only there that we can take root and grow and blossom. Two sides of the same coin, then, both as valid as each other, the yin and yang of being.
For this fresh and sparkling New Year, I wish for all of us, intrepid expats, Syrian child and everyone in-between, the best of both, the thrill of the new and the comfort of the familiar in equal and joyful measure. May the paths we walk on be solid and safe within an ever changing, ever inspiring landscape!
That’s me done with the serious reflection. Here, to add a lighter note, a little vintage comedy sketch all about the familiar comfort zone of Miss Sophie. In Germany, this has been broadcast every New Year’s Eve without fail since 1963, on virtually every TV channel and several times during the evening. Despite the fact that it is a British production with British actors, it is as good as unknown in the English speaking world but an absolute legend in Germany, in itself really quite funny when you think about it. And, of course, like so many of the posts here, it’s about dinner. Enjoy!