Winter came fiercely to Kentucky, skeletal branches with leaves dead and curling on the ground. In some places, like the abandoned bourbon distillery outside Frankfort, the death rattle creaked against window glass a century old. Snapping one last photo, I switched my camera off and stepped out from the crumbling plaster and peeled paint into the frost-bitten desolation. The temperature had plummeted and the sun was disappearing beneath the rolling, isolated hills of the Blue Grass State.
Another adventure for the books, another exploration conquered and documented. It had been awhile since I spent an extended period of time in Kentucky. Having graduated in 2011 from a liberal arts college less than an hour from the distillery, I was disappointed in myself for having never known about this grand treasure of gorgeous disrepair.
A wedding between two of my closest friends brought me back to the state of my college years. Despite being a northeast city boy with a deep love for the ocean, the South, especially Kentucky, held a cherished place within my soul. It was in this unknown territory, far outside my zone of comfort, that I grew into the person I am today. It was the challenge of the then new environment and surroundings that shaped my character and the course of my life. It was there, with no reservations, not knowing anyone at all, that I stepped out in faith and reached the end of my own self-sufficiency.
A rusty, beat-up truck puttered down the cold, lonely road as I crouched down beside a withered tree and started scrolling through the pictures on my camera. Had I not stepped out and taken the risk of exploration I would’ve never gotten the incredible images and the rich experience. Braving the cold, I clicked the camera off and started for the car. The sun had set and it was time to go.
Turning onto the I-64 East ramp toward Lexington, the fullness of an epiphany came over me. It was no coincidence that at this particular time in my life I would have a chance to revisit this place that meant so much to me. I just so happened to be once again, in the same predicament as when I had arrived at college back in 2007. Now, years later, I am again facing the unknown, stepping out of my comfortable familiarity and into a new role of leadership in my career, moving from employee to employer, taking on my biggest project yet.
Had I not ditched the comfort zone by taking a risk and attending college in Kentucky, I would have never met my life-long best friends. I would have never travelled the world over and gone on the unforgettable adventures and escapades, met the many connections, nor would I be who I am or where I am in life today: ready to step out in faith and do it all again, this time with my own company.
We live in a society where comfort has become a value and a life goal. But comfort reduces our motivation for introducing important transformations in our lives. Sadly, being comfortable often prohibits us from chasing our dreams. Many of us are like lions in the zoo: well-fed but sit around passively stuck in a reactive rut. Comfort equals boring shortsightedness, and a belief that things cannot change. Your comfort zone is your home base, a safe place not to stay in, but to return to, after each exhausting and exhilarating expedition through the wilderness of life. Take a look at your life today, if you are enjoying a shelter of comfort, break through it and go outside where life awaits – Ken Bosma
There I was, a few days into a new year, and not just any year but one that’s set to be pivotal and defining, just like my first school year in Kentucky. I was back in the very place that had become my physical embodiment of having learned that if you want to get more out of life you have to lose your inclination for monotonous security, that ditching the comfort zone and choosing risk over safety is always the growth choice and that if it excites you and scares the crap out of you at the same time, it probably means you should do it.