We all have moments in our lives that define us; those moments where we are asked to make choices that make us a little bit uncomfortable.
Whether it’s because of the weight of the decisions or the nature of the decisions themselves… we often do not embrace these changes completely. I know that when I was applying for college I certainly felt this way. I would sit down before a tower of digital applications and could barely move. Horrified, terrified and insanely excited – I found that life can be very uncomfortable.
However, the older that I get the more I realize how important it is to be uncomfortable, because comfortable is dangerous. We like comfort because it is safe and predictable. We know where things stand at all times, and we understand ourselves in these situations. But if we get stuck in comfortable, we can miss out on a plethora of opportunities.
Opportunities to grow.
I know this because the more that I have questioned my own discomfort, the more I have begun to understand myself. Understanding is the key to growth whether it be personal, social or intellectual.
Gannon is a great place to be uncomfortable within your own comfort levels. College is a great place to challenge your own standing with yourself and with the world. And I’ll warn you, if you are doing college right, it will at times be uncomfortable.
In order to give you a better understanding of what I mean by uncomfortable, here are three ways that Gannon has made me embrace the awkward.
Example One: Living in a City
Before coming to Gannon I had only ever lived in one town. When I graduated from high school I shared the stage with 89 other people that I had known since kindergarten. I knew every inch of my small town and everything about it felt like home. My home was a safe place that held a special place in my heart but I wanted more. I didn’t think that my country heart could handle the leap of a large, overwhelming city so I opted for the best of both worlds.
While Erie felt huge, I was encouraged by Admissions to embrace the small town/city appeal that Erie could offer. Living downtown certainly made me uncomfortable… at first. Then have found that a lot of the stigmas and fear that I had towards cities were a result of my own misplaced perceptions.
One of the most uncomfortable obstacles that I had to face living in a city was the fear of being unsafe. Coming from the country, I was under the impression that cities were often filled with crime. My parents unintentionally encouraged this idea by making comments that I would have to be “extra careful” when spending time in the city.
My perception that the city was a dangerous environment left me feeling very uncomfortable. However, I was soon pleasantly surprised to find that Erie, and Gannon especially, is a very safe place.
As it is anywhere, it is (of course important) to pay attention to your surroundings, but the majority of people that you will meet want nothing more than a friendly smile. Challenging myself to embrace city life has given me a great deal of confidence. Feeling capable of going to the grocery store by myself and stopping by a local restaurant for a quick bite (solo!) have given me a newfound self-assurance.
I had something to be proud of.
There was something that I had overcome within myself. My own fear and reservations lead to a new sense of empowerment. Strong and serene, I now can say that I enjoy the luxuries of living in a city without reservations.
Example Two: Living in a Foreign Country
Before college, the closest I had ever come to leaving the country was on family road trips to visit relatives in Texas. However, my freshman year I found that interstate travel does not compare to intercontinental experiences.
Last summer, I spent a month studying in Lille, France. Not only was Lille my first experience living abroad but it was also my first time living in an apartment by myself.
To be honest… I don’t know which was the most uncomfortable.
From sharing a house with five others – to a dormitory with 50 – I was not accustomed to having my own place. Suddenly tasks like routinely grocery shopping to getting to class became that much more intense, plus there was a language barrier. I didn’t have a roommate to lean on for support, and Google Translate can only take you so far in conversation.
Needless to say there were times over that month where life got a little awkward.
But it was the best sort of awkward! Living in Lille taught me a lot about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and embracing the awkward. I found that the more I tried to speak in French, the more confident I became in my communication skills and the more friends that I was able to make. I found the more that I was willing to leave my apartment to explore the city the more I came to appreciate French culture. The more that I was willing to give the experience, the more I was getting out of it.
To my surprise I found I was capable of not only living in another country but that I was capable of thriving there. Those lessons that I learned in France taught me a lot about solidarity with our own international students at Gannon and an appreciation for other cultures.
Example Three: Embracing a New Major
When I decided to come to Gannon, I never thought it would be for math. Out of spite, I would proudly declare that English was more for me.
However, my freshman year I reluctantly enrolled in a business calculus class.
Ugh. I was horrified, since the last math I had taken was pre-calculus. And I hated it.
But, once I stopped telling myself that math was not my strong suit and that I was destined to fail business calc anyways…. I realized that I sort of loved math. That discovery lead me to really embrace my first accounting class. Little did I know that my discomfort with business calc would ultimately lead me to find my passion for accounting and finance.
If I hadn’t put away my preconceived ideas of what accounting and math and embraced the discomfort of learning a new topic then I never would have found my passion!
You see, so much of awkwardness comes from ourselves and our own ideals as to how we should act. But putting ourselves in a box and saying “this is how we should be” is a recipe for dissatisfaction. The best moments in our lives are the chances we take when we embrace the discomfort. The moments where we recognize that we are uncomfortable, let ourselves be uncomfortable, and then try to understand where that discomfort comes from. We are meant for so much more than to be comfortable. We are meant to grow and discover our own destinies… even if they can get a little awkward.