They say: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” I agree. I just got back from six weeks ‘living’ in Los Angeles and I saw the growth first hand.
I moved around quite a lot when I was younger. From Egypt to Switzerland to the UK, Egypt then back to London, I picked up and moved schools, made new friends, lived new lives every time. I hated it at the time, hated my parents for making me move, hated the teachers at each new school; hated it. But I’d be hard pressed to argue that the moves didn’t facilitate massively to my growth, despite making me the angsty, emo-teen I guess I was.
Sometimes, I can feel my bones creak under the weight of all the lives I want to live. My friends always joke that I transform, my belief that everything is temporary extending also to my own thought processes, my own behaviours, my own neatly defined life. From 1.0 to 12.0 or so I’ve come over the years, each new number bringing with it unutterable pride. Okay, so I’m no longer the girl who cries when she spends more than five minutes alone: now, I love my own company. Okay, so I’m no longer the girl who cuts prayers into her skin. Each new number brings with it new accomplishments, new “shit, I’m fucked up” that I get rid of.
While on the flight back from Los Angeles, already raw with emotion and sadness to be leaving this place that had birthed a new version of myself that I loved, I read Glennon Doyle Melton’s ‘Love Warrior’ (seriously, seriously recommend giving this a read ASAP!). I love words, I love the feeling they give you in your chest when the right words, in the right order, at the right time make you feel wholly understood. That’s how I felt when I came across the line: “So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.”
Melting into my seat before escaping to the plane bathroom I sobbed hot, salty tears. Fuck. Yes. The journey of the warrior. We are all on one. I can sit for 1.6 seconds where yesterday I couldn’t even sit for one. Thank you God. Fuck. Yes. There is a warrior in me, too.
Indeed, finding myself in an unfamiliar environment, minus my big flock of friends, my jam-packed schedule, my routine, I guess you could say I kind of found myself, or a different version of myself, at least. I took a whole bunch of steps on the journey of the warrior. Maybe these sound obvious to you, but they weren’t obvious to me. I grew further into myself, and I learnt a few things while living out of my comfort zone, the most important of which?
You can be whoever the fuck you want, and you can do whatever the fuck you want, and there isn’t really any definition of that that matters other than what YOU personally are okay with.
How weird to think that I didn’t really know that. I think it takes time to become who you are. There’s so much adding and subtracting of belief systems, of personality traits. It fucking hurts, growing up, doesn’t it? I remember so clearly at times feeling like I was trying to shove a square into a circle. Haphazardly sawing and clawing and chomping off extra bits, in desperate attempts to fit.
Not to say I don’t give any fucks about being accepted these days, I do. Just less. I think about my definition of happiness / success a lot. Borrowed from Gandhi, it’s “when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.” Yes. It’s hard to get there but I think a huge part of the battle is getting rid of all the stereotypes and expectations of what everyone else wants you to think, what everyone else wants you to say and do and feel and be and eat and love and wear and and and and and and and.
To refer back to ‘Love Warrior’, one of the earlier passages that really stuck with me was: “We know what the world wants from us. We know we must decide whether to stay small, quiet, and uncomplicated or allow ourselves to grow as big, loud, and complex as we were made to be. Every girl must decide whether to be true to herself or true to the world. Every girl must decide whether to settle for adoration or fight for love.”
I’m not sure if it’s worsened by the fact that I’m Arab, originally. Indeed, despite the fact that my parents and family at large are suuuper liberal and would probably even flinch at being called Arab because “we are Egyptian not Arab!” (with allll the distinctions that brings), the expectations are still super prevalent, they still weigh down on me, and they still make me think “I wonder if they’ll think less of me” when I behave in a manner that may not be in accordance with those stereotypes.
To say it’s been the bane of my existence may seem like an overstatement, but it actually kind of has. That belief system has forced me to be anxious and shy and awkward and insecure in situations that don’t warrant it. What’s more, that’s not even actually my personality. Just a buzzkill belief system that coloured my life. Post LA and the living outside of the comfort zone what do I know? It doesn’t fucking matter.
At this point, I’m old enough and know myself well enough to know what behaviour / thoughts / and etc I’ll be okay with; to understand what code of conduct is okay in MY book, not in the world’s book. I trusted myself enough to do things I normally would never do, and not only did I not die, but it made me free. And really there’s nothing that feels better than that.
What do you guys think? Have you ever lived away from home? Let me know in the comments below! xxx