Comfort Zone

Linda - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Entered on February 17, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Comfort Zone

I believe in forcing ourselves out of our comfort zones. It is only when we are facing a new challenge do we see what we are capable of doing. Then we stop procrastinating, stop making excuses and begin thinking “Yes I can” instead of “I’ll do it tomorrow”.

I unexpectedly live in Vietnam right now. I say “unexpectedly” because had I not decided to step outside of my comfort zone I never would have ended up in this wonderful, confusing and sometimes frustrating country. In the summer of 2003, I left the life I had created for myself–a good paying job with benefits and comfortable apartment in Cincinnati to an existence of uncertainty and unemployment in Chicago. I took the summer off and immersed myself in the joy and adventure of exploring a new city. A couple of corporate jobs later and unsatisfied with my career path, I again stepped out of my comfort zone to pursue another career as a teacher. Many of my friends called me “brave”, “bold” even “courageous” for doing what they would never do. I guess in a way they were right, but I never looked at it like that. I had a goal and could only achieve it by stepping outside what was normal behavior for me and most other women my age.

So, at the age of 38 I went to graduate school, worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs at a time to make ends meet and focused on my goal of getting my teaching certificate. At that time I had an image in my mind of getting a job at a public high school in Chicago, having my own place and living back in that comfort zone. I remember the sense of accomplishment and exhilaration I had on my last day of teacher training, realizing that I had achieved my goal. Now, the next step was simple, or so I thought—get a job and get on with a “normal” life. In 2007 the country was well on its way to recession and I did not receive a single call for an interview. My seasonal job was ending, my lease was expiring and I had no job prospects. The thought of a long, cold winter in Chicago as a substitute teacher, not being able to afford my own place and having to sleep on friends’ couches did not appeal to me. With these facts staring me in the face, I chose once more to do the unexpected and moved to Seoul, Korea to teach English for a year. That move was the springboard that began a new way of thinking for me. It led me to another exciting opportunity in Vietnam and countless more on the horizon.

The job I took in Seoul is not what I will remember about that particular year in my life. What I will remember is the friends I made, the experiences I had, the culture I was immersed in and what I learned about myself. I have always been independent, but have become even more so. I learned that I have an incredible ability to adapt to a foreign country in a very short period of time. I learned that I was capable of even more than what I expected of myself. I learned that the life that I live is my own, and that I shouldn’t let others’ expectations affect the way I live it. Seoul will always be a reminder of the beginning of a new life that gave me the confidence that I can do whatever I set out to do. It was the decision that set me down a path of adventure that opened my eyes to the world. It would have been easy to continue what I had been doing, but I would never have been able to meet the people, had the experiences and live and work in the countries that have affected my life in such a positive way. The call to step out of my comfort zone opened so many doors for me and I am grateful that I had the wisdom to listen.