The year of 2013 was big for me. I’ve probably said that about many other years, though. The year I started high school, the year I graduated high school and went away to college, the year I discovered television production, the year I graduated college… I keep thinking that those years where all the big stuff happens all at once are behind me. I keep thinking that life will level out and I will find my niche and all will continue smoothly without surprises or upsets. I keep thinking I’ll find that comfort zone.
I believe that I am a person who likes to have things figured out. I like plans, to-do lists, and the predictability of a schedule. But when I think about this past year, nothing I did was in “the Plan.” I’m not even sure what that plan was or where it originated, but I know that I never saw myself here.
After this year, though, I’ve realized that life is not about finding your comfort zone. It’s about getting away from it. Life is about change and struggle and loss and love. It’s about the journey. This past year held many firsts, was full of uncertainty and doubt, and overflowed with changes. I was as far from my comfort zone as I could be, and yet it was one of the best years of my life.
In January, I started my first full-time job at a nonprofit organization called Steeltown Entertainment Project. I fell in love with their idealistic dreams and the glamour of the film world as an intern and welcomed the challenge of learning everything I could about production and about working in a nonprofit.
I was living at home with my parents at the time, to save what little money I could. They cooked, cleaned and did the laundry, and I lived a comfortable post-grad life for a little while.
Within a few months, however, I realized that my administrative assistant job was not the right fit for me and I had bigger dreams. But I was stuck. I felt suffocated by my parents and frustrated with my job. Piles of student loans weighed heavily on my mind with interest adding up by the minute. My meager nonprofit earnings didn’t allow me to save much. My boyfriend lived four hours away and visiting him was draining, both on my bank account and my patience. By mid-summer, the 1998 Chevy Lumina that had gotten me through college finally died and I had to buy a new car. And that was the last straw.
I remember feeling like I couldn’t get anything right. Mostly, I felt like I had spent a lot of time, money and energy on a four-year college education and it wasn’t getting me anywhere.
Then, miraculously, things started working out. I met some amazing UD alumni in the area and started helping out on the board of the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club to plan social events. I started apartment hunting online and visited places in the city with my mom. Then we actually walked into the perfect place and signed the lease the very same day. I bought a car and didn’t end up completely broke. My boyfriend moved in to the Shadyside apartment with me.
Things were turning around, but my job was still at a standstill. As much as I hated it, I was worried that I wasn’t qualified for anything else. Job postings for marketing positions looked like they’d be right up my alley, but I hadn’t taken any marketing classes and I didn’t have any experience. I thought about going back to school, but without any money, that wasn’t possible. I really did like most of the people I worked with, so I convinced myself it was fine to stay there for a year or two.
I periodically threw out a few resumes, believing they would probably get passed over anyway. Then in August a phone call came from Beyond Spots & Dots. They said they had my resume from June and wanted an interview.
Then began the most nerve-wracking few weeks of my life. I got the job, I handed in my two-weeks notice at Steeltown and moved on to the next chapter of my life.
This past year, I know I had some lulls, hit some bumps, and made some changes. I didn’t expect to ever live in my own apartment in Shadyside, or be the Vice President of the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club, or work at an advertising agency. But now that I’m here, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
It is hard to make changes in your life. You can stay in your comfort zone and be mildly satisfied with your current situation or you can make something better happen. I may like having plans and lists, but it’s these times of change when I figure out what I’m made of.
It takes guts to try new things or to make a life-changing decision and stick to it. It also takes guts to do small things. This is when you step up to the plate. This is when you show up, or you’re out.
But being gutsy is not all about the things you do. It’s about who you were and who you have become. It’s about seeing things differently because new experiences have given you a new perspective. It’s about the journey to discover the person you are meant to be.
Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. I’m participating in Jessica Lawlor’s #GetGutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details.