Like most of you, I’m a creature of habit. Read: I do me.
I’ve been doing me for a while now, and I’m quite good at it.
I have a rhythm: get up (often begrudgingly), coffee (aids the begrudging), work stuff, family stuff, lather, rinse, repeat. Pepper in highlights that accompany my job as a lifestyle writer like parties, restaurant openings, etc, and you have the essence of me.
You might say, I’m in the zone. But, is that a good thing?
I watch my daughter enter new situations constantly, never batting an eye or missing a beat.
She’ll attend a party not knowing anyone but the birthday kid and leave with new Snap Chat followers. A busy Friday night seems like a terrifying time to try roller-skating for the first time, but she straps on the skates and navigates the rink bravely.
Kids bounce from new scenario to new scenario with ease. They’re fearless.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a comfort zone, unless you feel like it’s holding you back from something. After all, you need to challenge yourself and experience new things in order to grow. But whatever the chosen excuse — it’s time-consuming, it’s costly. etc. — facing the unknown is challenging and so, as adults, we avoid it.
Does that imply we are fearful? Why is it so hard for us to try something new?
According to a study published in Psychological Science, learning new skills in a social setting keeps your mind and brain sharp.
I turned my questions inward. Am I getting stale? Do I challenge myself? When was the last time I tried something new? I mean, really new. I don’t mean ordering vegetable samosas instead of meat, or taking the Mass Pike instead of backroads. I’m talking about something that makes me feel new.
And that’s when it hit me. I’m rooted in my own comfort zone.
Getting out of my comfort zone required a plan.
Pushing all my go-to excuses aside, I settled on escaping — literally picking up my body and leaving my comfort zone. And where is last place a city girl who doesn’t ski and hates the cold should go in the dead of winter? Answer: upstate Vermont on an ice fishing trip.
Time To Get Uncomfortable
Packing appeared to be an exercise in post-apocalyptic prep.
I was told to only bring “useful” clothes that keep you warm in extreme cold. Translation: Be hot, not haute. Gucci and Guipure lace have no place among negative double-digit wind chills. I was already out of my style safe space with bulky wool sweaters, waterproof boots with toe warmers packed inside, and thick thermal leggings. Do I even own these? Answer: I do now.
Next challenge, driving there.
I was lucky enough to score a loaner 2019 GMC Sierra Denali truck for the trip. Although it had luxury creature comforts to distract me (think heated steering wheels and space-age windshield displays), there was no getting around it — this truck was huge. I felt like a toddler sitting behind the wheel of a fire engine at a town fair. I needed a ladder to get into it, and the thought of safely driving it through the forecasted snowstorm sent me into a mental tailspin.
But, I did it.
The next morning’s ice-fishing excursion was on Lake Elmore.
I met my group in the Spruce Peak Lodge lobby for the 20-minute drive through Stowe. Once we entered the parking lot, I glimpsed our final destination in the distance — a small tent on a breathtaking lake covered in a foot of snow.
The only sound: whipping wind.
The only bathroom: a fisherman’s outhouse.
Comfort zone: blown.
After being told by our camo-clad guide the terrifying crackles below our feet were normal, I closed my eyes and took my first step out onto the 40-inch thick sheet of ice covering the lake.
They say on the other side of your fear is your freedom. As it turns out, my freedom was in a red Eskimo pop-up tent about 200 yards out.
I gingerly made my way through the snow out onto the frozen lake, sinking in just enough to make me remember all my Sunday school prayers.
Upon safely reaching the tent, I was handed a pole, bait (maggots, ick) and a bucket to sit on. A crash course on ice fishing followed.
In went the hooks and on the buckets we sat. And sat. And sat.
It took a while for me to relax and feel safe, although whenever the ice below crinkled, my nose followed suit. I straddled an unfamiliar line between peace and exhilaration, as I waited in that tiny hut on the lake. The holes themselves were peaceful, seemingly lit from within — a clear contrast to the 60 m.p.h. winds buckling the sides of our tent.
Learning to Enjoy It
After bagging a few perch and losing a big pike, I stepped outside to take in the view. Once my eyes stopped watering from the icy gusts, I squinted against the blinding white tundra.
I was doing something new.
I was freezing and nervous, and yet I was happy. I discovered that leaving your comfort zone can be exhilarating, even if it means being uneasy at the start.
My introspection was interrupted when someone excitedly yelled “flag” — a sign that one of the larger fishing holes had a doozy on the line.
No rest for the weary!