I just finished listening to the most recent Good Life Project podcast, an interview with Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased. Conley tells a heart rending story (which has been made into a movie) of growing up knowing he was gay in a conservative, religious small town. He was given the choice to undergo conversion therapy or be cast out from his family. I was moved by the courage it took for this self-described introvert to share his painful story with the world.
At the end of the program the host, Jonathan Fields, always asks his guests, “What does it mean to live a good life?”. Conley paused, reflected and then discussed the importance of truth and honesty. He went on to qualify his statement with the assertion that people need to be able to speak their own truth in their own time. Conley said,
Be honest when you can. This is my caveat…You can know something about yourself, you can know your truth but you don’t always have to announce it immediately. You can wait for the right moment. You can develop a strategy. I think there is something that gets lost in #livingyourtruth. Which is: live it, but live it at the right time…There is such a pressure right now especially with social media to be the most intense version of whatever you are…don’t let that kind of mentality shame you.
Wow. This really resonated with me and I made a connection to something that has been bothering me for a while. I sometimes feel bombarded by messages to “live outside my comfort zone”. The internet is flooded with articles about the importance of challenging your personal status quo and achieving your ultimate dreams. From our sports to our schools to our relationships, we are told to push, move, challenge, change.
On one level, I wholeheartedly agree with the call to move beyond what you think is possible. It is important not to become complacent in our lives, to try new things, to look at the world in a new way. I have tried to live my life like this — moving, exploring the world, and taking risks.
But existing outside what is comfortable to us is not always a choice we get to make and is not always a fun adventure that will bring us closer to some idealized version of ourselves. After a year of dealing with a serious medical issue and a move to a new country, I find myself wanting to claw my way back to a comfort zone in order to re-establish a sense of equilibrium. Yes, I have changed. Yes, I have grown, but I’m ready for some sameness and consistency for a while, thank you very much.
I’m not advocating for a life in which you constantly stay within your comfort zone. This would be hypocritical of me to say the least. But we have to remember that change and challenge need to happen at the right time and in the right way, whenever possible. A life filled with constantly living outside your comfort zone would be chaotic, anxiety producing and disruptive. We have to make sure we don’t fall for the illusion that, by constantly challenging ourselves, we will reach a state of self-actualized bliss. We can make meaning of our lives now regardless of how exciting or mundane they are.
So when is the right time to shake things up and challenge yourself? How do we walk that fine line between becoming too comfortable in our lives or being constantly overwhelmed? You have come to the right place to explore these questions as I will be delving into these topics in depth in the months to come. It is my hope that this blog will open a conversation we can have as a community. Or you can contact me and we can talk about it one- on-one.
This is a good segue to my next topic, a blog and book review about Daniel Pink’s book When. Stay tuned…