I had a comfort zone, and that comfort zone measured 5’5″ by 18″.

Just a little bigger than me in fact. (Yes, I’m titchy.)

My comfort zone was born when I became a teenager, as so many are. At first, it developed slowly. An interest here, a dislike there. The knowledge that a particular book, film or tv series would make me happy, or that a person would make me sad. As time went on my comfort zone grew stronger. It fed on new fears, on throwaway comments, on doubt, on desire, on taunts, on rejection, on hopes, on expectations.

My comfort zone was there for me when I thought I was not good enough for nice clothes, or haircuts, or the boys I liked, or the dreams I wanted to chase. It curled up beside me on the couch and reminded me that there were always books and films and music and friendship.

We were not scared of change, my comfort zone and I. Oh no. We embraced it; we lost our hearts, we switched careers, we travelled, we made new friends, we took nightclasses, we added interests. But it was an adolescent thing, naive, shy, and scared to commit.

From time to time I broke free to pursue writing, take a Masters, make films. I watched other shy, introverted people push themselves or hold themselves back, and I wondered at myself. At the slightest hint of rejection or failure, though, my comfort zone would whisper gently into my ear that I didn’t need to push myself, that things would work out if they were meant to, or that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to drop my dreams and just be comfortable. It was there with open arms and a DVD box set. Warm, safe, familiar, we always had each other.

And then my sister died.

And there was no comfort.

There was only pain, and love, and time.

I quit my job. I wrote. I lived. My comfort zone eventually came back, but it was a malleable thing now. I pushed at the boundaries of it. I found acting and discovered the joy of surrendering myself to a role. I took on writing challenges and succeeded. I exercised, lost weight, allowed myself to feel a little better about the way I looked. I was reluctant to push myself too much, though. I relied on my comfort zone to hold me back, keep me safe from rejection. This time last year though, something snapped, and I realised a horrible truth.

My comfort zone was my coffin.

It fit me perfectly, contained me, held me down. It stopped me from living beyond my fears. It smothered and suffocated.

So I broke it. It was painful, and the break didn’t just hurt me. Things changed. I changed them. I went for opportunities, I won and lost, I embraced the power of possibility. In the last four months alone I have pushed myself beyond what I would ever have thought I was able to do, and I’m glad of both the success and failure I’ve experienced. I need to do more to put myself out there, especially with my writing – habit is a terrible thing to break too – but I’m getting there.

Life is short. It may be a cliché, but it is true. If we have the power to do so, we need to live. We owe it to ourselves. I still like to curl up with a good book or film, but I’m determined to create and to push myself beyond what I thought was possible as well.

I still have a comfort zone, but fear and doubt no longer hold it together. It is a smile, a hug, a book, the sky, the ocean, the stars, you, me, and a thousand dreams of possible futures.

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