Penny: Okay, that’s fine, but let’s try and get you out of your comfort zone.
Sheldon: Why would we want to do that? It’s called the comfort zone for a reason.
(The Big Bang Theory, Season 4, Episode 14)
I started skiing at the age of 35, which might explain my initial reluctance. Downhill skiing was supposed to be fun, but everything about it turned out to be a real challenge – putting on my ski boots, adjusting to the high altitude, using the chair lift, and of course, mastering the technique of turning, the only way to reliably control your speed as you go downhill.
I hated it at first. I was scared, it was hard, it just didn’t seem worth it. But my family loved it, and our ski trips were fun. I didn’t enjoy skiing, but I liked spending time with my family, relaxing with hot cocoa (on cold days) or cold beer (in the spring) after a day of skiing, and dining out at nice restaurants.
So we kept going, year after year, and I kept taking lessons, and skiing with my family, and hating it. My husband, ever so gently, kept nudging me forward, encouraging me to keep working at it – after all, if I only do beginner bunny hills and my family is doing intermediate blue runs, I can’t really ski with them, can I? And if I can manage blue runs but they are skiing advanced black trails, that won’t be any good either.
I realized that if I wanted to spend time with my family, I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and ski the same slopes they were skiing. And I did. Persevering, not giving up, doing something that’s completely out of character for me – fast, aggressive, fearless, I slowly improved my skiing technique, gained confidence, and let go of the fear. And the better I became at skiing, the less fear I felt, the more I started enjoying the challenge, the speed, the thrill. Last year, when I finally started skiing black diamond runs with speed, grace and control, I also started enjoying the sport immensely. I was
This weekend, as I ripped down the north-facing slope of Lookout Mountain, on one of Northstar Resort’s longest steeps, Martis, I felt strong and confident and very able. I was free, flying like a bird, the soft white snow under my feet and the cold, crisp mountain air surrounding me. Nothing was scary, there was no stress, no everyday worries, no one was going to stop me! I was invincible.
After years of feeling, like Sheldon, that staying within one’s comfort zone is the only logical choice, I finally realized that stepping out of your comfort zone, while certainly scary and uncomfortable at first, can lead not just to great fun, but also to meaningful personal growth. I discovered a completely new side of me, and I liked what I found. It felt good this weekend, and it still feels good now, as I’m writing these lines.
What’s next? Stepping out of my comfort zone of groomed black diamond runs, and learning to ski bumps and moguls! Not that I ever expect to be able to do this, or even this… But I’m sure going to push myself as far as I can go. I can’t wait to see how far that is.