Challenging one’s comfort zone

As my nephew and I can attest, watching Mr Bean's Holiday for what felt like the seventeenth time, Mr Bean came through okay in the end! So can I.

Feeling out of place

When I feel out-of-place, I feel Mr Bean goes on holiday out-of-place. I imagine people spot the awkward smile on my face and see through my nodding and general attempts to pass off as okay. And yet, even when I am a tad uncomfortable, there’s an inner voice somewhere telling me, Go, with it. Go with the flow. Or, so, I at least try to reason to myself. I am leaving my comfort zone…

Mr Bean on holiday
I can feel as uncomfortable as Mr Bean

And so I continue – trying to speak French. Trying to speak Spanish. Getting into a spot of bother with a taxi driver in Marrakech, even though there’s very little reason for me to reason with him – he just wanted to rip me off!

I have been quiet on this blog for a couple of months, which I regret. From now on, I intend to post quite regularly. Essentially – reset. I am now living (temporarily) in Morocco and next month, I will temporarily relocate to Barcelona for a course.

I am leaving behind a very solid and respected career path and trying new ventures. There are great friends to inspire me, but at times this feels a very improbable path.

What am I doing?

Last week, and I realise how lucky I am – this is not a whinge – I was in Paris visiting family. At times, I wondered, “what am I doing?” I don’t mean I was having any regrets being in Paris – far from it. I got to spend a delightful few days, with my sister based there and nephew. I mean to say, I was reflecting on the opportunities I hope will soon come my way. And the certainties of life I have waved goodbye, fading away.

Despite the shining lights of Paris, at times I felt a bit of a fraud.

And as I was speaking my pigeon French, again frustrated at my lack of progress in a language I have learnt, on-and-off since age eight, I felt a bit of a fool. A bit of a fraud. Not because my French was of a Mr Bean-standard – okay, I was at least attempting to be communicative.

No, rather, I mean to say, I was’t quite sure what image of myself I was even portraying to people when I explained my current situation. Or my ambitions for the future. I was advising them that I soon hope to teach. But I am not teaching yet. I explained next year I plan to take a course to become a life coach. But hearing the echo of what I had just said, I almost laughed at myself. So pretentious. So full of bullshit.

Climbing out of the comfort zone
I am still taking the steps I need for the next phase

When a security agent at the Moroccan border post asked me what I do for a living, I said I was a writer. This gave me a half-second of pleasure until I realised it was precisely the wrong answer to give and he asked what on earth I wanted to write about in Morocco.

What I am driving at, is that I have lots of aims; lots of vague plans and lofty aspirations. Yet, these past few weeks I have been plotting a very uneven path in thick forested hinterland – a place that might simply be called, “I don’t know what I am doing“. And it’s mightily awkward and uncomfortable at times, despite the childlike pleasures I derive from doing genuinely new things, such as exploring new architecture or art.

Trust, that precious prize

Leaving one’s comfort zone is never easy. This is relatively straightforward compared to many people’s experiences. All I have done is simply move country – and, then, probably just for a while. I am well-networked and have a basic belief that everything will be fine in the end.

What has got me through – besides my partner who has been a massive source of guidance and encouragement – is a huge sense of trust. I learnt on my sabbatical in South America four years ago that a helping of trust can get you very far indeed. Yes, one needs to remain vigilant and not to be naive.

But trust: in the people you meet, in the eventual possibility that everything will be okay, is a wonderful and precious prize. I will still need it in spades these coming weeks. But I can’t do without it. It’s not always comfortable, but to leave one’s comfort zone, you have to feel some initial discomfort. Just like Mr Bean, did.

But as my nephew and I can attest, watching Mr Bean’s Holiday for what felt like the seventeenth time, Mr Bean came through okay in the end! So can I.