My cat Geeja is not what you would call brave. In fact she’s the definition of “scaredy cat”. She spends long hours hidden underneath the comforter on the bed. She hyperventilates when riding in the car. The ring of the doorbell sends her scurrying in a crouched frenzy to the bedroom. But lately she has started to venture outside; at first it was no more than a few feet beyond our front steps, on alert, ready to dart back into the comfort of the front door. But the other day I watched from our second story kitchen window as she cautiously perched herself on the brick planter to watch the busy evening traffic go by: cars, noisy delivery trucks, and pedestrians walking dogs. Why would she do this? Why would she put her comfort, her stress level, and her sanity at risk?
But then it occurred to me. Geeja was living. She was living the life that she had wanted to live for so long. She was exploring, seeing new things, smelling new smells, hearing new sounds. Was she nervous? Judging by her body language and head motions, I would say she was somewhere close to a heart attack. But I could also see her excitement, her fascination with this new world. And I was proud of her because she was doing something that is so hard, not only for cats, but for people. I believe the things we do outside of our comfort zone are what’s really important because it’s how we grow.
Meet new people. Join a club. Try out for a team. Volunteer. Speak up. Voice your opinion. Tell someone how you really feel. These are all things that change us; these new experiences broaden our perspective, give us insight and allow us to make connections. They create character, confidence, and memories. But an unfortunate sentiment that has crept from our modern lifestyle is the quest for the easy, which is great for cell phones and computers, but often that idea of finding the simplest solution does not mean it’s the best route to take. Humans are creatures of habit, and our unintentional complacency lands us in comfort ruts, routines that can keep us from all that life has to offer.
I believe comfort is often mistaken for happiness, which it isn’t. The key to happiness is having something to be enthusiastic about. And that something usually doesn’t come to us; we have to go find it. Like Geeja, we have to step out to the curb, take a risk, venture outside of our routine and find that something that makes us feel alive. Watching life from behind the window isn’t living. Every once in awhile you have to venture down to the street to where the action is. You need to get chased by a dog, pet by a stranger, roll in the grass. As uncomfortable and difficult as it may seem at first, Geeja will tell you that it’s well worth it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.