Comfort Versus Courage
This article is something I've been trying to write for about a year now. I pick it up and put it down about once a month. And I guess I haven't been able to finish it because I don't think I thoroughly know the answer yet, to who wins when you have a decision between comfort versus courage. But I'm getting closer now, I promise, so I'm pushing through.
I guess the question I have is, why should we go out into the big, bad world and choose struggle, discomfort, being lost and out of our depth...over the safety of a warm, familiar space we know how to be in? Why should we choose courage over comfort?
I'm starting to think lately that the answer lies in our nature. We, like every thing on earth really, are here to evolve and grow, we're here to push ourselves to the point where we have no choice but to change, every thing evolves. And if we don't choose it, the world will somehow certainly make sure at some point we have no choice but to walk it and live it, that evolution. But it's in our very nature to seek adventure and its side effects, expansion, even if it's at the cost of our comfort. Maybe we weren't put here to have a nice time all the time after all.
What do I even mean by courage? Courage takes many forms and the courageous decision in one person's life might look very different to the courageous decision in another's. The choice to seek courage and adventure isn't always about choosing literal adventure or risk taking I know. I know sometimes it's quiet and unsung. I know sometimes it's actually staying rather than going. I guess choosing courage is choosing to face the challenge rather than hide in what you know. Courage is choosing the path that's the challenging one, not the easy one, probably not the one that's paved in gold (sorry), not right away anyway. Courage is choosing the path that's going to make you grow.
I've spent many moments lying despondent on the floor begging to 'be normal', to not feel compelled to live the strange travelling life. It's not easy choosing the path you know will lead you from the place you've become accustomed to, to the place where you truly want to be and need to be.
This is the courage part, to keep on leaving behind the space that's become comfortable. And it's always changing, the comfortable space. We're always conquering situations and evolving beyond them, mastering a new level of the game. And the fear of forging on in an unknown direction towards a future you never really know will eventuate never gets much easier to handle if you ask me. It never feels any less real.
But courage is the enemy of fear, it's the warrior. Comfort is maybe just its faithful, dutiful servant.
I remember the first time I chose courage over comfort. I was 15 in high school in Australia. I decided to spend my summer holidays living with a family I didn't know in the cold, dark, wintery suburbs of Paris. I sat up in the nights leading up to it terrified at what I was about to do. And it was terrifying and uncomfortable the whole thing, I was right to be scared.
I shared a foldout sofa bed with my hostile host sister and her dog every night in a tiny apartment. It quickly became apparent that this girl had been forced into the whole exchange student thing by her mother. This girl was not pleased to see me most of the time, to share her space with me.
My friends sent me pictures from their beach holidays at home whilst I woke up and walked to school every day (including Saturdays?!) in the dark with my angry host sister. The whole thing reached a real crescendo when Christmas Eve saw the family's drunk uncle declare loudly across the table in slurred french, 'Katie, je pense que le chien parle français mieux que toi.', translated, 'Katie, I think the dog speaks better french than you.' I rang my parents in tears, begging to come home.
But I loved this whole experience too, I spoke real conversational french every day, ate brioche and nutella for breakfast (and gained a lot of weight), made the most incredible friends who expanded my thinking so much, smoked for the first time in the school car park, saw snow, slowly won over my cranky host sister, stretched myself and my ideas of where and how I could possibly live in the world beyond measure, fell in love with Paris and France and the french language, fell in love with adventuring out in the strange world.
I guess that's when I first proved to myself the overwhelming benefits of choosing courage over comfort. If you're trying to decide between comfort versus courage, for the first time or the thousandth time, because life never seems to stop asking you which you'd prefer, let me remind you of a few benefits, the overwhelming rewards and upsides of choosing courage:
Practicing resilience through conquering challenging situations means you have no choice but to become stronger in the process.
2. Becoming yourself
You already said 'no' to comfort, so you keep saying it to things that are not you. Saying no to the pre-programming that comes built-in to our society, that you have to do certain things, reach certain milestones of success, act in certain ways, have certain things, means you eventually peel away all the things that are not you and make room for the real you more and more and more.
3. Daydreams become reality
When you leave behind all the things in your familiar world, you let those things go and create room for new things. What flows in are all the people, places, activities, situations you always dreamed of but never thought possible. And you realise they weren't dreams, they were premonitions.
I know they say pain is the best fuel for great art. Choosing courage and being uncomfortable gives you a well of rich experiences, the full spectrum of emotions, you can't help but create something that's a unique expression of everything you've learnt and been through.
It's not a trick choosing the courageous path, you felt drawn to it for a reason, because some part of you knew that doing all those hard things would lead you to a place of increasing happiness and fulfilment. You're being led and nudged down that path for a reason. You're being led to greater and greater happiness.
I know I'm very lucky to live this life of mine, it's not that hard, but at times, when I think about how nice it would be to stay and choose my version of a comfortable life, I have to have a reason why I keep choosing the adventure and the struggle over that, so I can keep going.
p.s. Tune for when you choose courage and you're changing and everything's changing.