Tripping out of ‘comfortable’

I got lost in a car-park.

Being severely navigationally challenged, this would not normally be remarkable. Except… this was a shopping centre I have visited almost weekly for the past fifteen years.

I was daydreaming, took a wrong turn and suddenly I was in a starkly unfamiliar location. I slapped back to attention with a confused whaaaat? That was followed by a lot of circling before I soothed my jangled nerves enough to settle into a car-park.

I am a creature of habit. I get the same buses, travel the same routes, go to the same shopping centres and park in the same car-parks.

Why? Well, half the time the lights are on low as I do the zombie-shuffle of the every-day. The other half of the time I’m day-dreaming about other worlds and stories. A dash of spice and adventure is nice in a neat side-dish, but the meat of the day/week/year is the mundane, the day-job and the chores, the boring plod of the everyday.

I run the majority of most days on autopilot. I like to be comfortable.

It got me thinking (after I found my way up into the shops and was able to begin day-dreaming again) about the role ‘comfortable’ plays in limiting opportunities for growth and learning. How deeply does comfortable narrow our choice of the subjects, materials and learnings we expose ourselves to?

Last week’s blog reflected on how we limit ourselves by closing ourselves off with all the things we “know”. My adventure in the bowels the unfamiliar car-park and my anxious, unsettled ‘mmmm-don’t-like-this’ circling got me thinking about the risk of dismissing opportunities because they don’t fit what we expect an opportunity to look like.

To combat the risk of painting myself into a corner with learning, I shake things up (in small doses, in a neat spicy side-dish). I go to an event or an opportunity that sits outside the mainstream space for me as a creative soul. I deliberately choose something a bit quirky or spicy or unexpected, a ‘wild-card’ training or workshop at least once a quarter. Something a little bit left-field. Something that makes friends, when I retell the story, blink and say “what, hang on, you went WHERE?”

I feel like we need to be comfortable parking in different car-parks occasionally, even if we wound up there by accident.

The universe provides a buffet of opportunities for new growth and experience with each and every day. How actively do we court the new? How often do we reach for the thing we didn’t know was a thing? How enthusiastically do we step outside the roster and routine of what is proper and planned and expected?

Is it time to click on something you would normally skim past?

Is it time to ask: “why not” instead of “why”?

First published on my website 20 May 2021

Nicole writes short stories and novel length speculative fiction and a weekly blog https://nicolewalshauthor.com/ or www.facebook.com/nicolewalshauthor