Can You Spot the Difference?

IMG_6603

About three months ago when I had been here for a mere three days, I spoke with someone about my move here and they brought up how Slovenia and America are very different. At first I just shrugged my shoulders. I guess? Any two countries are going to be different. But as I thought more about what he said, I realized that I couldn’t think of any similarities between the two countries. Nothing. Nič.

I guess in my mind the two countries were similar because they are both developed, but when I really started thinking about each country and its norms and quirks and everything else that makes a country a country, I realized how vastly different the two are.

For starters, the languages. Obviously. I don’t even need to point that out. And of course there is size. Slovenia is itty bitty. It only takes four hours to drive from one end of the country to other. Drive five hours in Texas, and guess what? You’re still in Texas.

While Slovenia is small, there are many different dialects depending on the region or city you come from. This causes a lot of difference in speech from city to city. It’s pretty crazy. The region my mother is from is called “Prekmurje.” It’s in the very northeastern part of the country, the head of the chicken if you will, and the dialect they speak there is so different from pure Slovene that Slovenes from other parts of the country cannot understand it. It’s basically its own language. It has a name and everything (Prekmurščina)! Now take the US. It’s pretty big. But do dialects exist? Not at all. Just some accents and a few different words. In Texas we say “y’all” while in the north they say “you guys.” Some Americans say “pop” while others say “soda.” But these are almost negligible.

My theory (that I came up with moments before writing this) has to do with Slovenia having influence from so many other languages. They border Hungary, Croatia, Italy, and Austria. That’s a lot of different languages. And Slovenia is tiny, making it easy for these languages to permeate. In the US, we may border different states, but we all speak English. Also, the majority of US states are much larger than Slovenia. So dialects are somewhat of a foreign concept for us. At least for me. I still don’t quite get them.

The mailmen here ride bikes with compartments attached to the wheels somehow that carry all the mail. Some ride motor bikes as well. I think this is funny but in a cute way. In my hometown, all the mailmen and women drive.

The students here go home every single weekend. Something I find a bit bizarre and would never want to do myself. I mean just think of all the packing and repacking and money spent on bus tickets, and for only a day or two? But as I mentioned earlier, Slovenia is tiny. Making trips across the country isn’t nearly as big of a hassle as it would be in the US. Also not nearly as expensive. Many students study in Ljubljana, which is a very central location for the country, and thus trips home are only two and a half hours at the most. There is also a lot more emphasis on family in Slovenia. In the US, parents basically kick their children out of the house at the age of eighteen. Whether this is said to children or not, it’s still a societal expectation. In Slovenia, it’s a lot more common for kids to live at home past the age of “legal adult.”

Lunch is the big meal. I really like this and have chosen to adopt it. It makes more sense and means no cooking or preparing food in the evening. I always thought dinner was somewhat of a useless meal anyway. Who actually has the time and energy for that? And what do we need that energy for? Going to sleep? Instead I just snack on one thing or another.

In terms of homes, it’s standard to wear slippers, there are no closets (just wardrobes and dressers), and balconies are much more common. In the US, most people go around the house barefoot or in socks or even shoes. Most rooms come with a closet, and sadly balconies are a rarity. They’re typically only found in nicer and more expensive homes (or apartments). Lame.

Slovenia and really just Europe in general are a lot more “green.” They separate their trash into five different bins. FIVE! Trash, paper, plastic, glass, and compost. I love this about Slovenia and wish the US would adopt a similar system. We only have recycling and trash and sadly, this causes a lot more waste within the country. My two Swedish friends told me in Sweden they separate their trash into even more specific categories. The US needs to step up its game.

Something I find amusing about Slovenes (or maybe it’s just my family) is that they are always concerned about whether I’ve had enough to eat. I could tell them I’m full a million and half times and they would still offer me more food. I always end up giving in. I can only say no so many times before I feel rude.

There are many more differences I could list. There are some I cannot think of at the moment that I know in a few days I’ll be like, “Oh yeah! I could have written about that!” So maybe a part 2 will be coming your way? We shall see.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Počivati

IMG_6621

 

Počivati (po-CHEE-va-tee). This means “to rest” in Slovene. Something I do a lot of while I’m here. Perhaps too much… ?

Living in a foreign country is great. There is a lot of beauty and new cultural experiences. I’ve met many new people. There is so much to see, so much to do, and so much to learn. Which sometimes makes me to feel as though I’m not doing enough. Sometimes a thought creeps in the back of my mind, that I’m not taking full advantage. Not soaking up every last drop.

Of course I want to take advantage of what I have while I’m here, but sometimes I feel a pressure to be doing something fun and interesting and cool and exciting every day. When really, this is just unrealistic. The days where I’m inevitably at home for the majority of the day give me a sense of wasted time. Should I make plans? Go enjoy the view of the mountains or the old buildings in the center even though I would prefer to stay home today?

I live here. I’m not a full time tourist. That might be fun, but it would be exhausting, and frankly it’s not the reason I came. Yes I still want to explore and see new things, this was true even when I was in Dallas. This will be true of anywhere I end up. But when you live somewhere, it’s different. You have routines and rituals. These can get boring, even if you love your job or school. Everyone at some point itches to escape the mundane; which is why it’s good to branch out (that’s what weekends and vacations are for). But our reason for living where we do isn’t to go sight seeing every day. We work or we go to school, we spend time with friends, we contribute to society, and we rest.

Sometimes I spend entire days resting. Which is just a euphemism for wasting time. I’m not doing anything super productive. There are maybe two or three things I could be doing, but they’re not urgent or even necessary. There are times when I dislike not doing anything. Other times I realize that it is exactly what my tired and overworked body needs. I was always under a lot of stress because of school (especially the second half of high school) and other various things. I couldn’t help it. I’m a perfectionist and as my doctor once (actually twice) told me, an “intense person.” Because of my body’s tired and overworked state, my health was not at it’s optimal. I’m grateful, and quite privileged, to be able to do this. Not many can simply put their life on hold to live in a foreign country in order to learn a language and provide much needed rest for their body, heart, and mind. And even if they could, do they have family living abroad that could easily accommodate them? Probably not.

Is there such a thing as too much relaxation? Of course (we all know that too much of anything is a bad thing). It’s called being lazy. Or procrastination. I start to get antsy when I reach this point. It’s rare that I do, but it does happen. Still, this is much better than being busy all the time. No one truly likes being busy, but at the same time, it makes the moments of relaxation all the sweeter. Last Saturday was a treat for me because the previous week had been quite busy, and I also had a cold. This past Saturday was instead rather boring because my week was not as involved. I was also in full health.

For the first time in a long time, I have hardly any responsibilities. Nothing looming over me. And my goodness, how nice it has been. Sometimes I miss school. The process of learning, friends and classmates, teachers, and yes, even the homework. I love school. I always have, so at times I’m inclined to long for it. I try not to of course, I know this will all come again in due time, and when it does, I’ll inevitably long for these days.

I try to remind myself that there will probably never be another season in my life where I have this much time to simply relax, rest, and take it easy, whatever that my look like. At least not while this young. I’ve got a whole life full of chaos and hard work and responsibility ahead of me. Which is why I am glad to have taken a year away from it all instead jumping right back in.

So on days like yesterday, where I only come into contact with the lady who checked me in at the gym and the cashier at the grocery store, I remind myself that it’s okay to feel this sense of uselessness. Take this time, and do something with it. Learn something new. Write some more. Do research on a topic that interests you. Keep writing those college essays and applying for scholarships. Practice your vocabulary. Read that book that’s been sitting on your desk. Wash the dishes and fold the laundry. Play some music and sing along. And maybe watch a movie (or 10 Vsauce youtube videos in a row). And remember, you are here for a reason, some ultimate purpose. Whatever it may be.

Thus Far

IMG_6265

It’s been nearly three months since I’ve been in Slovenia, nine days since I posted a blog, and I’ve had writer’s block this week. So I decided, why not give you the scoop on what I’ve discovered in Slovenia thus far. Let’s proceed, shall we?

  1. Slovene is a tad bit harder than I thought it would be. Not that I was naive going in. I knew it would be no walk in the park, learning a new language never is. But Slovene has singular, plural, and dual conjugations. Masculine, feminine, and neutral nouns. And to top it all off, Slovene has a whopping six cases, a very foreign concept to a native English speaker like myself. This means endings change, ALL THE TIME. What’s funny is that native speakers don’t really realize they are changing endings. They just do. No thinking required. I now understand part of the reason why my mom never wanted to attempt teaching me Slovene. It’s A LOT. And as a native speaker trying to teach me all those grammar rules in an orderly fashion that she has probably never even stopped to think about, well, it would’ve been a challenge, to say the least. All these rules and ending changes make it difficult to speak. At least with Spanish I could actually say a few coherent sentences. Speaking of Spanish…
  2. I’m grateful to have spent 2 years learning it. As much as I disliked it at the time, it introduced me to the world of conjugations, making the concept less foreign and easier for me to understand and use now.
  3. Preparing your own meals is not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, I quite enjoy it. I have complete freedom to eat whatever I want, however I want, and whenever I want.
  4. Also, I love buying my own groceries. I have complete say in what I buy and it’s never been easier to avoid eating junk. I just simply don’t buy it! What a concept.
  5. Writing this blog is one of my favorite things to do. I have always had a passion for writing and I’ve always been told that I’m good at it. And now, I have a platform to pursue it on! I’m finally doing something with my writing skill and passion, and it  is a great feeling. In high school I thought of joining the school newspaper but didn’t. Instead I took theatre again, despite losing interest, simply to guarantee a class with my friends. Part of me regrets this. Instead of wasting another year doing theatre, I could have done something I actually cared about. But it’s all good. I have this blog now, and I quite enjoy this writing medium and the style I get to pursue through using it, something I’m not sure I would have felt if writing for a newspaper.
  6. Knowing that I, a girl from Texas, was going to live in a colder climate, I would have expected to be the coldest one in every room. The opposite is true. People here bundle up when they don’t really need to and not enough when it seems that they should. I guess I’m not used to it because in Texas, a coat and some boots would do the trick. As a Texan, I don’t really know how much to bundle up and when. Dressing in layers? Never heard of it. All I’ve ever had to do is walk to the car, ride to my destination with the heat turned up, and then walk out of said car for a painful few minutes before the artificial heat of a building would again warm me up. Here I actually have to wait on buses or spend longer periods of time walking around to get where I need to go. Often times I find I don’t wear enough because I think I’ll be fine, but then it gets dark or I’m out for longer than expected. Other times I find that other people are wearing way too much and I think to myself, “toughen up.” The amount of looks I get while walking to the gym in leggings that expose the bottom half of my legs is almost humorous. Every time I’m bundled less than those around me, I get asked if I’m cold. When the answer is yes, I force myself to believe otherwise, and I must say, I feel quite tough compared to my more bundled counterparts. Is it just me, or does it seem as though the higher your tolerance to cold, the tougher you seem to be? Since I find myself believing this to be true, when I do feel rather chilly, I tell myself to suck it up and that it’s not that bad. This actually works. Most of the time.
  7. It’s fun to have friends that are older than you. And I mean a lot older. Yes, most of my close friends here are only about 2-3 years older than me, but I also have some that are in their 30s, 40s, and even 60s.
  8. It’s even more fun to have friends from all around the world. I have learned so much about different cultures from those I’ve met. Different foods, traditions, customs, norms. It’s all so fascinating.
  9. The view of the Alps never gets old.
  10. Truly getting over jet lag takes a whole lot longer than I realized.
  11. Having good friends and community is so so important and such a blessing.
  12. Face-timing friends and family back home is super fun and brings me a lot of joy.
  13. Netflixes vary by country.
  14. Time zones make life interesting, and I find myself thinking about them from time to time (see what I did there? it was an accident, to be honest). Like how it will be 2019 here a whole 6/7/8/9 hours before it is in the US, or how I lost seven hours by coming here that I won’t get back until I return to the US.
  15. You can get used to just about anything.

There you have it, a non-comprehensive list of things I’ve discovered during my time so far in Slovenia.

 

Home Sweet Home

Ypj5Kyd3RlWz6owLcZYy+w.jpg
This is not where I live. It’s a traditional Prekmurje style house.

I live in a home with floors that creak. Early in the morning, late in the evening, soft feet tread throughout the flat, yet the fear of disturbance still prevails. But what can I do? Lean to the right, lean to the left, even still, there will be a high pitched squeak.

What if she wakes up? Try to be quieter. How? It’s not me, it’s the floors. Well, maybe take bigger steps? Already tried, doesn’t work. Okay, step in spots that don’t creak. They ALL creak! Hmm, well, you are lucky she is a deep sleeper.

Distant creaking travels through walls and closed doors. Someone else is awake. The echo of familiar voices in a familiar tongue, but not a word understood. Voices up above, potential screaming, the occasional stomp. Pitter patter of feet. Doors shutting and rain pouring, the dreamy sound carrying me to sleep through an open window.

Ears ringing with silence or overwhelmed with noise. Can my upstairs neighbors hear me singing? Lights that are too bright, or aren’t bright enough. Except at dawn, when the glow of a little green lamp provides just enough. Cabinets and cupboards that have seen better days. Enough counter space to chop an onion. A fridge one might call “mini.”

White walls, white windows, white curtains. Not a single matching light fixture. Pink and black bathroom tiles, no living room. Itty bitty kitchen, doors without locks, no modern glam whatsoever. This is where I live.

And surprisingly, I’ve grown to really like it.

In Texas, I lived in quarters I thought were tight, but are spacious compared to where I reside now. I used to dream of what it would be like to live in a large home. A home that sparkled from the inside out and had all the modern, expensive finishes. A place one could practically get lost in. Or at least one where I had my own room.

But I’ve discovered how much I don’t care about these things and am amazed at how content I am in this space. Maybe it’s because I know it’s temporary. Maybe it’s because I live in a beautiful country and city.  Maybe it’s because this is my only option. Maybe it’s because I’m young.

I could dismiss these feelings of contentment for reasons that are more superficial, but I like to believe it’s because I see how little a big beautiful home is actually worth. I love the feeling of stepping into a house the size of a hotel. I love exploring homes that look like an art gallery threw up in them. I quite enjoy gawking at the curb appeal of modern homes. But while it’s nice to have, won’t that feeling fade? Wouldn’t it grow old?

I like the the feeling of making new friends more. I prefer walking the streets of Ljubljana to the halls of a house. I’d rather gawk at old buildings and mountains than marbled counter tops and walk in closets. All that I’ve been experiencing here is worth more than the temporary satisfaction of a pretty house.

What if I had it all? Content? You bet. But fulfilled? Not even close. I might even feel ridiculous when comparing my lavish home and all its superfluous features to someone who doesn’t even have a proper place to lay their head. It’s true that living in the first world causes us to compare what we have to what others have. We always want more. I find this to be especially true coming from such a wealthy suburb. Growing up it seemed as though most of my peers had more than I did. Their own cars, the newest iPhones, all the Lululemon clothing one could imagine, and a huge home. But when I would take a step back and look at the rest of the world, or even the next town over, I came to realize how much I truly had.

(This is actually a psychological phenomenon called “relative deprivation”)

For a while, I thought having a nicer place to live would solve everything. It was a very subconscious thought, as I am just now realizing how true it was. Living in a run-down, small, and outdated home here in Slovenia has really changed my perspective when it comes to the place I live.

Home sweet home. What makes a home sweet? I’ve found that the people who fill your home (whether roommates or guests), the place your home is located, and it’s ability to simply function matter infinitely more than the flooring, decor, light fixtures, and square feet/meters.

 

 

Time Doesn’t Wait

IMG_6466

I believe I was in either late elementary or early middle school. I’m pretty sure I had said something like “I can’t wait for Christmas break!” or “Can it be Christmas break already?” and my father, in a semi stern tone, said, “No, never wish for time to go by faster.” And it has stuck with me since.

The actual conversation we had is fuzzy and I don’t even know if I quoted him or myself right, but throughout the years those words have really affected the way I view each stage of life. I always chose to be content exactly where I was, did my best to soak up every moment and cherish the people I was with, because I knew time would eventually take them away. Time would eventually change everything.

All throughout high school I encountered people who did not live by this same philosophy, especially during my senior year. My peers were constantly counting down the days until graduation and saying how they couldn’t wait to leave.

This pained me a little. They all seemed so unhappy with where they were in life, so much so that the only thing they were looking forward to was leaving. I mean I get it; high school is not always fun, homework hardly ever is, and Coppell (my hometown) can be quite boring. But there were so many good things as well. Good friends, football games, being close to family, and for me personally, the notorious IB program.

While the IB program is known for its academic rigor and countless essays, it’s also known for its quality teachers (at least at my old high school) and the strong community found by those who are in it. I had plenty of friends in IB who absolutely dreaded the program and regretted going into it because of the heavy work load. I was never able to relate because I adored the program. Sure it was hard, but it was also rewarding. My favorite aspect of IB was the community. The teachers were close with their students and while my fellow students and I struggled, at least we struggled together.

At the beginning of my senior year, I was aware of how quickly school years went by, and I knew I would miss my little IB family, so I made a conscience decision to really savor every moment. Multiple times a week I would remind myself to bask in the now and encouraged other people to do so as well.

One might argue this was easier for me than someone else because I actually enjoyed my classmates/teachers/classes/IB, but I would argue that I also made the choice to enjoy these. I made the choice to focus on the fun parts of school, to focus on why it was worth cherishing. I chose to get along with others and have fun (and this meant doing my best to not complain)!

And to my surprise, when the time came, I felt ready to leave. In September 2017 I thought for sure I would leave high school with a heavy heart. Instead I was ready for the next chapter. I was able to look back knowing I had really soaked up each moment, and didn’t try to squeeze any of them away.

The following months were harder for me to cherish, especially the month leading up to my departure. All my friends had left for college and my days consisted of reading, watching Friends, and working. I was bored and more than ready to get things moving. But throughout this month, the words of my father rang in my head over and over, and I had to remind myself to enjoy where I was in life and not to wish for time to go by faster than it already does. I thought about what I wouldn’t have in a few weeks. I chose to enjoy the company of my family, the freedom I had to truly relax and take my time, I even found myself enjoying work.

Often on social media, I see others posting a countdown for the days until a holiday break or about how they “can’t wait” to go to (insert place). Trust me, I know the feeling of those last few days at school before a break. They can be agonizing. But when I remember how brief each stage of life truly is, being present becomes easier.

All too often I feel as though people look back on a time in their life and realize how quickly it went by, and they long for those moments again. If there is anything I’ve learned in my 18 years of life, it’s that time will always go by faster than you think it will. I don’t want to look back on any experience and feel as though I didn’t squeeze out every last drop. I want to be present, intentional, genuine, no matter where I find myself.

A once saw a poster hanging next to a teacher’s door in Coppell High School that read “BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.” To me this says to make the most of where you are at, no matter where that is. Take advantage of the stage of life you are in. Learn from it. Grow from it. Enjoy it. Don’t wish it away.

With all that said, life is short, my time here in Slovenia is even shorter. I don’t have to remind myself to not wish for time to go by faster, but instead I have to remind myself to really cherish every single moment I spend here. It might sound strange, but I try not to look forward to the future. As excited as I am to see all that God has in store after I leave this place (whatever it may be, I have no clue), I try my best to be focus on right now.

Time goes by fast, it goes by slow. What’s most important (as cliché as it sounds) is that we make the most of it and use what little we are granted.

Bridge Building

 

Je0beGBCRkKE6KHHilsaPg.jpg

I have always been fascinated with language. It blows my mind. Language is something I’ve always thought about, but ever since I started learning Slovene, I cannot get my mind off it.

I never would have thought that learning another language would cause me to think so intensely about my own. I find myself constantly comparing the two languages and looking up things like “irregular verbs in english” or “how many tenses are there in english.” Learning a new language has made me more interested than ever in English. Sometimes I find myself just thinking about how English has no gendered nouns, no cases, no ending changes, and no conjugations. Just a lot of weird spelling and pronunciation. I think of how the past tense of “go” is “went” instead of “goed” and how weird is that? I even imagine myself teaching other people English in all its weirdness, including their reactions and my smugness. Other times I’m simply amazed at how a specific jumble of words and letters and sounds means something to a specific group of people, but absolutely nothing to another group.

These thoughts mostly occur when I first start practicing a new set of Slovene vocabulary. It can be both frustrating and a bit exhausting. It all just sounds like a bunch of jumbled letters and random sounds, but the thing is, they’re words. And these words mean things to people. They are engrained in their memory, just like English words will forever be engrained into my memory. Then I again am hit with that same thought; language is incredible.

Not only does the concept of language fascinate me, but the thought of the Slovene language (or any language other than English, really) being someone else’s normal. A few weeks ago my cousin told me about a professor that once asked her class, “What is normal?” This question brought me back to my IB Theory of Knowledge days and I found myself really craving a discussion over the question after it was asked. Sadly, no discussion followed. I pondered the question for a long time though, and still find myself thinking back to it.

I really like that question because it makes you think outside of your bubble. Outside of what you are used to. Makes you realize how malleable the word “normal” truly is. In Europe, it’s normal to drive a stick shift car. In the US, it is not. Snow is normal for people who grew up in the North, for Texans, it is so not. For Slovenes, thinking and speaking in Slovene is normal. For me, it is not.

Continuously, I find myself wonderstruck by the idea of Slovene being normal for the person that scans my groceries, or that I pass on the street, or sit next to on a bus. Their world is completely different.

I know I sound a bit dramatic, yes of course if your native tongue is French then French is normal etc, but it truly does amaze me. I think part of the reason is because we have no control over this. We are simply born into what we are born into.

Language will never cease to amaze me. Our abilities to pick them up as children but how we struggle to learn new ones as adults, the way that language can shape the way someone thinks or behaves, the enormity of each language and all the words that each contains, the way each has evolved over time, the infinite creation and death of words. So. Many. Words.

Don’t even get me started on tones (a recent interest I’ve discovered to the point of looking up basic Chinese lessons on youtube) or really Chinese in general. 语言很酷 You mean people can read and understand that?? And for many it’s their normal??? Wild.

I could go on and on. I could ask a million questions about English like, “Why do we call a phone a phone? Why does ‘ph’ even make a ‘f’ sound? Who decided what the letter ‘e’ should look like and what sound it makes? And who decided to put it at the end of so many words even though it won’t make a sound?” and then a million more about Slovene. But I will spare you.

As much as I marvel over language, I have also found that it can create quite the barrier between you and someone else. The obvious barrier being when you and another individual do not speak the same native tongue, and neither knows the other’s well enough (or at all) to effectively communicate. Therefore getting to know them is either a challenge or impossible. Which is sad. This has been the story for most of my life when interacting with my mother’s side of the family. So much awkwardness and difficulty in communication. It’s no wonder I’m so fascinated by language, its ability to both connect and divide.

It can often be a chasm between people. A chasm so wide no matter how loud one speaks, their message will never get through to the other. A bridge must be built. Building a bridge over a large chasm will take a long time and require some hard work. But the closer you get, the better you will be able to hear and understand. And one day, you just might make it to the other side.

Am I going to make it to the other side? I highly doubt it. But perhaps over time, I won’t have to yell as loud.

 

The Comfort Zone

IMG_6066.JPG

The Comfort Zone. Yes, it is a proper noun. I’ve found myself thinking about this place for quite some time now.

The Comfort Zone is a wonderful place, really, despite its reputation. Without it, we would be in a constant state of stress. Yet when we think of the Comfort Zone, we are reminded of the constant pressure to “get out of it.” We are often told to leave it behind, as if it’s an unhealthy relationship.

This is not how I see it. To me, the Comfort Zone is more comparable to a cozy, steaming cup of coffee, tailored to your specific taste, on a rainy autumn day. Comforting, that’s for sure, but drink too much and you will have caffeine coursing through your veins giving you an indescribable feeling of anxiety and tiredness and the willingness to run a marathon all at the same time.

You know, a “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” sort of thing.

While the Comfort Zone is a nice place to rest, relax, recharge, and be 100% yourself, one can only stay there for so long without going a tad insane.

If you stay in the Comfort Zone for too long, you either A) get bored and start itching to leave and actually do something other than what you’re used to, or B) don’t realize you are stuck in the Comfort Zone, nor how much better life could be if you tried stepping out of it.

Someone may not want to admit or even fully realize that they are trapped in the Comfort Zone, but deep down they know it’s true and we’ve all been there. The jealousy that arises when looking at someone who took a risk and succeeded. The envious feeling we get when watching someone do something incredibly brave, and then thinking how we could never. Leaving the Comfort Zone can range anywhere from speaking out against something to trying a new activity to simply wearing a piece of clothing that’s a little more “out there.”

The Comfort Zone is not a “one size fits all.” It’s highly unique to the individual, and each has the power to control the size of their comfort zone. While all comfort zones look different, they all have one thing in common:

They become claustrophobic over time. We need to expand them.

There is really no limit to how much one can expand their comfort zone, and it can happen at any rate. The steps taken can be of any size. In fact, there are sub-comfort zones within the one big Comfort Zone! But I won’t go there.

It all comes down to our willingness to continually step out of it.

Don’t get me wrong, leaving the Comfort Zone behind is no easy task. No one likes leaving their comfort zone. No one. It’s difficult. It’s awkward. It’s new. It’s scary. It’s risky. It feels weird. It’s uncomfortable (duh). Stepping out of the Comfort Zone is a lot of things, but most importantly, it’s a continual process.

Something I find funny about the good ‘ole Comfort Zone is that you can never truly escape it. Leave it once you’ll find yourself right back in it again. But don’t be discouraged. This is not because you regressed, rather because the thing that once freaked you out is now your new norm. How cool is that?!

Growth is not what causes us to step out of our comfort zone. Stepping out of our comfort zone spurs growth. We do not wait around until we feel brave enough to leave the Comfort Zone, leaving the Comfort Zone is brave in and of itself (I believe bravery is more of a choice rather than something we acquire).

I know I’m acting like I’m an expert on the Comfort Zone. I am not. These are just some of my thoughts. I have just as much trouble as the next person when it comes to leaving the Comfort Zone. The whole reason I felt compelled to write this was because I spent a whole 5 days nestled in my comfort zone while visiting my mother’s side of the family in Murska Sobota.

I had plenty of opportunities to practice speaking Slovene while I was there, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Like I mentioned earlier, I was itching to leave my comfort zone behind, but struggled immensely to do so. I felt trapped by own fears, and I still do. It’s incredibly frustrating. I am also very hard on myself and a natural born perfectionist, so you can only imagine how my self esteem was those five days (hint: not at its highest).

If only there was a way around the most difficult part of leaving the Comfort Zone, what I refer to as “the first step.” But sadly, there is not. You just have to do it. No thinking, just doing. This is hard. This will always be hard (especially if you’re an over-thinker like me). It’s a choice we have to make every day. It’s something we have to be very intentional about. And we will not always succeed, and that’s okay.

What’s important is that we don’t beat ourselves up, and try again the next day. Always keep trying, don’t become stagnant. Expanding the boundaries of your comfort zone is rewarding. One of the ways I’ve experienced this is through the very blog you are reading.

I write all this in hopes that you would be encouraged and that I myself will be encouraged to take that first step each and every day, because boy do I need it!

A piece of art that helped inspire this writing topic is titled “Outgrowing the Comfort Zone” by Kathrin Honesta if you want to check it out! (: