It Pays to be Scared
I always thought that I’d have developed to my near-potential by the end of college. As a freshman I would daydream about the type of woman that I would be upon graduation: Would I be cultured? Would I be a better writer? A better human being? When I used to think about the facets to my personality that I may grow into, I hadn’t considered that maybe I would become someone entirely different.
As a freshman college student I fit the standard for the normal, all-American girl. I had a boyfriend whom I loved, a sorority I belonged to and a dear group of friends. My parents were very supportive of my wishes and needs.
However, as my college years went by I began to draw myself out of my comfort zone. This is how I realized that the community I had surrounded myself with was not challenging me for the better. This isn’t to say that I’m not thankful for the time that I had in my undergraduate years, but it is true that I’m most grateful for the instances that allowed me to escape my “bubble.”
During my junior year I studied abroad at a school where I was the only student from Tennessee. Yes, it was scary, but it was during this time that the views I had always held close to my heart began to shift. Suddenly I was thrown into a new culture with people from all over the world, people whose views were different than my own. The challenges began and I realized the importance of exposing yourself to what is different.
Yes, the “other” is scary but it pays to be scared. My semester spent in England created a desire within me to do whatever it took to escape what I had known. I no longer wanted the things I had previously wanted and found myself setting my sights on other adventures – graduate school, moving to a foreign country and other journeys that terrified me. I wanted to be shaken to my very core and challenged with ideas, lifestyles and people that I had not known in my previous years.
The woman I am right now is not the type of person that I would have expected to become. At the center of myself I am a shy person who hates the idea of being drawn out of her comfort zone. I’ve found some sort of spark, though, that makes me want more to life. I’ve made some pretty big, scary life changes within the past month. I have graduated from college and almost immediately moved to a South American country – the real kicker is that my Spanish is quite limited, making all outings ultimately hilarious. I’ve since learned that if you simply say, “I’m sorry, I’m from the United States,” most people respond with a knowing smile and will provide you with all the help you need.
Normally a pretty self-conscious person, I’ve decided that ultimately it does not matter what other people think about you. If you can make yourself happy, make your parents proud and have some good friends, then keep truckin’ along. If you have changed from the quiet, naïve girl you were as a freshman it very well may be for the best. Changes happen for a reason and I’ve found that most of them will help you in the long run. After a month of contemplating my current life, as opposed to my former, my greatest advice I can give is to go forth, stay weird and keep scaring yourself.