By Lauren Peterson
When we met at orientation, we were asked to rate different situations on
how they fell into our comfort zones, on a scale from 1 to 5. A rating of 1 was feeling
at our most comfortable and 5 was the worst possible thing that could ever happen
to us. Having lived in England for a year, I for sure thought I’d gotten this “getting
out of my comfort zone business” out of the way. I’d gone abroad, without knowing
anybody, for twelve whole months. I made new friends, lived with strangers,
traveled on a regular basis, and had experiences that far surpassed my level of
comfort. So, of course I thought joining SkillCorps would be a piece of cake. Well,
that feeling lasted up until day 1 of orientation.
On that first day, I found myself completely out of my element. I was
surrounded by new people who had so much experience, and most had been in this
field for years. Everything I’d overcome from my year abroad seemed to disappear.
I felt nervous meeting new people; I was hesitant to speak up in group discussions; I
wasn’t keen on the idea of sharing a room with someone I didn’t know, and I had no
idea how I was going to manage traveling across the world with these people for the
next two weeks. Everyone was extremely nice, and the team got along great, but the
second day still wasn’t much better for me. We spent the day learning more about
one another and discussing how far our comfort zones stretched, but I still couldn’t
shake the feelings of discomfort.
I know I wasn’t the only person who was out of their comfort zone; these
feelings around spending so much time with strangers (who are now my friends)
just happened to be the element most uncomfortable to me. As soon as we began
the actual traveling to Indonesia, it seemed as if all of our comfort zones were being
tested. Our own experiences replaced the “what if” scenarios given at orientation.
Things such as being placed on the wrong flight; finding dead lizards in our showers;
using squatty potties; trying to initiate conversations in Bahasa; or being constantly
stared at because you are the only “white-skinned“ folks around, and having people
either sneak pictures of you or ask to take selfies became the true test to what our
comfort levels could actually handle. The situations that we’d previously rated as
fives at orientation, become ones and twos, and these new experiences ranked
higher on our lists. It’s funny how your true feelings appear when you are placed in
real situations, as opposed to just thinking about how you might react to these
things. However, these unpleasant surprises were temporary. The feelings I was
dealing with only seemed to persist.