What is it about doing things outside our comfort zone that feel so good when we finally do them? The anxiety, stress and overwhelming sense of dread that we experience before them is nothing compared to the high of the adrenaline rush you get afterwards.
Many people stay within their boundaries — they stay at their jobs even when they’re unhappy because it’s a stable job with good benefits and a flexible schedule; they don’t change their doctors because they’ve seen them since they were teenagers. Even more people limit themselves to experiences because they’re afraid of what others will think of them — they don’t get piercings or tattoos because they’re afraid of what their family will say or what future employers or customers might think. Some women wear makeup simply because they feel like society expects them to do so (but that’s another column altogether).
And don’t get me wrong — comfort zones exist for a reason — trauma survivors staying home instead of going out in large crowds because that’s where they were attacked, or veterans flinching when they hear gunfire or fireworks. Those comfort zones are meant to be respected by the individual and by those around them.
Anxiety creates a lot of comfort zones of varying levels in the minds of people who suffer from it. For example, if you ask me to go out to eat to a restaurant — I’m down — I love to eat and I’m fairly sociable (despite the happy-go-lucky persona you may see me as sometimes, I promise, I’m not a big people person — or I’m not a stupid people person I guess). Anyway, if I’ve never gone to that restaurant before, you can bet money that I’m googling the menu and going to have an idea of at least two dishes that I might like before I even AGREE to going there. And if it’s a foreign food that I have zero idea what I’m getting into? Forget it.
My sister and her husband are very adventurous with the foods that they eat and try. Either I’m too cheap to be experimental or I got too much of my Daddy’s eating habits to be that adventurous. But she does get me to try new things — I’m not ordering it off the menu because a) I don’t want to pay for food I don’t like and, b) If I’m hungry, I need food I can eat…but I’ll sneak a bite or two of hers.
Recently, I did something that was out of my comfort zone and very surprising to some individuals around me.
My husband Jason and I, along with our friend Corey, went to Jacksonville for a concert recently (if you get the chance to see Luke Combs in concert — do it). While we were there I was like, “Let’s do something we haven’t done in a while or something we can’t do in Statesboro or something that’s way out of left field for us.” We’re all in the 36-age range (I love to remind them that they’re both older than me, but by the time you read this, we’ll all have had our 36th birthdays) so in my mind I was thinking — let’s go to a bar and drink and Uber back to the hotel.
I honestly wasn’t sure what the heck I was thinking but I wanted to do something that we couldn’t do in town and that would be a little out of character.
I kept thinking about it and suddenly, from the backseat (yes…I rode in the backseat, but it’s not because Corey isn’t a gentleman, it’s because I wanted to LOL) I yelled “Let’s get tattoos!”
Two sets of eyes turned towards me and Corey said something along the lines of “What the hell?”
But there it was — my out-of-my-comfort-zone experience. And I was stuck on it. I was not leaving Jacksonville without a tattoo.
And then Jason played into my anxiety: “But Ashlee, where in the heck would you go to get a tattoo down here? At least in Statesboro you can get recommendations!”
I thought about it for a minute and got a little worried — I mean, don’t tell him, but the man had a point.
Then I remembered that one of my friends, Kate, used to live in Jacksonville and had actually made trips back to Jacksonville after moving to Statesboro to get a tattoo. So, I texted her. She responded with a recommendation and I called the tattoo shop.
Bear in mind, this was Friday around noon. The concert was scheduled for 7 p.m. And we still wanted to go back to the hotel, change clothes (or I wanted to, the guys just humor me) and then get to the venue early because again — that anxiety thing. The tattoo artist, Ashley, had an opening for 3 p.m., but the shop was an hour away from our hotel. Plus, the hour or more to get the tattoo, plus the travel time back, etc.
She suggested that I take a 3 p.m. appointment for Saturday and I agreed. I knew that my anxiety would be high enough getting the tattoo but if I thought I was going to miss the concert, it would be even worse.
The entire time, Corey is like “Ashlee, this is permanent! You can’t do this spur of the moment like that! Are you sure? What are you even going to get?” Basically — he was the out-loud version of what was in my head. But I knew what I wanted — I’d created a Pinterest board titled, “If I ever get the guts to get a tattoo” years earlier. The board was full of sunflower tattoos because of my late Papa. I knew a sunflower was what I wanted — but which design? I quickly narrowed it down and sent it to Ashley. She gave me a quote, an estimate of time frame to complete it and said she’d see me tomorrow.
Corey was still like, “You made that decision too fast!” etc. Meanwhile, Jason was like “Eh. Whatever.” Either he’s resigned himself after 10 years of marriage to know that there’s no arguing with me or he knew how special a sunflower tattoo would be for me, so he kept his mouth shut for the most part.
Then came more interrogation from Corey: “But where are you gonna get it?”
I sarcastically replied “The tattoo shop.”
I know he rolled his eyes even though I could only see the back of his head. I showed him where I had determined (inside of my left arm above my elbow so it’s hidden by my body and clothing 90% of the time.
Was I scared? Hell yes. Anxious? Yes. Did I second guess myself? A little.
But was I confident that this is something I wanted to do? Yes.
So I did it.
Corey and Jason kept talking about I was going to change my mind and stuff. But after a certain point, Jason said, “Nope. She’s doing it. She wouldn’t have made the appointment if she wasn’t.”
Apparently, Corey thinks I’m a chicken or something because until I actually went inside the tattoo shop, I think he thought I was going to back out. (I need new friends. LOL)
After an hour in the shop (with no breaks, I might add because I’m a rock star), I have a beautiful black and white sunflower tattoo with an upside-down triangle framing it. It has four purple dots on either side of the triangle because purple is my favorite color so why not?
I was having a hard time describing to the artist where I wanted the tattoo so I asked her to raise her arms so I could show her on her arm (I couldn’t quite touch the spot I was trying to reach on my own arm). I noticed that those two spots on her arms were untattooed but I didn’t think anything of it.
During the tattoo, during one of the few times I flinched I said, “Why does that spot hurt so much?” She mentioned that the area down by the elbow was always extremely sensitive and “That’s why my arms are blank there. It’s a sensitive spot.”
Me: “Well, WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?”
She said she didn’t want to make me change my mind. I’m glad she didn’t mention it because it would have changed my mind and I probably wouldn’t have gotten the tattoo at all.
She did tell me that I did great for a first-timer and for it to be on a sensitive area so now I think I want another one. Just gotta plan another trip to Jacksonville, I guess.
The point of this story is that sometimes you have to step outside of the comfort zone you’ve put yourself in — stop worrying about what others think, stop worrying about if it will hurt, don’t “what if?” yourself so much that you miss out on things that you want to do.