I stepped out of my comfort zone and found a whole new side of myself

Anyone who knows me would testify that I am incredibly set in my ways. I like to sit in the same chair in my living room all the time. I like to sit in the same chair at the dinner table. I haven’t changed my hair style in roughly four years, and I wear a variation of the same outfit pretty much every day. I don’t like change.

But due to a series of fortunate events (or unfortunate, depending on your outlook on life), my entire life got shaken up, leaving me to try and find my footing. Nothing overly dramatic happened to me — I’m just talking about your typical teenage girl crisis of suddenly losing all your friends and having nowhere to go. My friends and I had been inseparable for the past four years; we’d done everything from go to the library to go on holiday together and it was awesome.

And then it was not.

I suddenly went from being surrounded by people who loved me and cared about me, to feeling very alone and unsure of what to do for my final year of school. Everyone else had already formed their impenetrable groups and I felt like I had nowhere to go.

So, I took a risk.

On the first day of school, I walked straight past the people who had caused me so much sadness and heart ache and plopped myself right down with some girls I hadn’t spoken to since I had been 11. This was a risky move. These girls were intimidating and beautiful and some part of me was screaming “Run away while you still can!” but I ignored that voice because that voice is so often my own worst enemy as cliché as that sounds.

And it paid off.

As I sat down, a feeling ran through my veins and it woke me up, I smiled and asked if it was okay for me to be sitting there and they smiled and said of course. The feeling running through my body was something I had never experienced before, but I liked it. They filled me in on their conversation and the feeling slowly began to fade as I settled into the rhythm of things in this new group. I still don’t know what that feeling was but it gave me this confidence to do something I would never had dreamed of doing, a crazy risk that paid off.

In fact, that risk started a chain reaction that I will be ever thankful for.

These people accepted me as one of their own, they became fiercely protective of me, and I suddenly realized that maybe people do like me — a thought I had never really had before.

And it gave me the confidence to start doing new things. For example, on my bus going to and from school, I used to zone out of all conversation and lock myself away in my own little world for fear of saying or doing something wrong. But over the next few days, I starting participating more. I threw in a few sarcastic comments and started conversations, and now those people I reached out to are some of my closest and most reliable friends. I realized that I just needed to be more confident and try new things because if you don’t even try, you’re never going to succeed.

But my risk-taking (which was really just putting myself out there for the first time) didn’t stop there. I went for job interviews, and I now work in a kitchen where I have to talk to new people on a weekly basis. I’ve decided to cut off 12 inches of my hair for charity. I started talking more to people I’ve never really spoken to, and I slowly let go of my over-bearing control freak self, and it’s awesome. I’m no longer held back by the fear of doing something new, and that’s because these risks I’ve taken over the past year have given me the confidence to be a better version of me.

I went from a relatively (not going to lie) boring person who never stepped out of her comfort zone to a girl who suddenly held herself differently and finally found what she was passionate about.

I’m not trying to insult my old friends; that’s far from my intention here. What I’m trying to say is just because some people are set in their ways, it doesn’t mean you have to be. It’s not like they physically held me back, they just never seemed open to the idea of change — and that rubbed off on me. I got it into my head that change was bad when, in fact, change is one of the best things that can happen. Change and risk-taking go hand-in-hand, and if I’m being honest, they’re my new OTP. Without risk, change can’t happen, and without a change of environment, you may never take that much needed risk. My new friends showed me that.

In September, I start at a new school. I get to surround myself with new people who I’ve never met or heard of. I get to take new classes, and I’m going to be dropped into this entirely new environment where I only know a handful of people. I’m going to have to navigate this new place and talk to strangers and make a good first impression on nearly a thousand brand new people. The old me would’ve been filled me with dread, but now I’m actually really, really, really excited. I get to meet new people. I get to find out about their lives and hear stories I’ve never heard and tell new jokes and create new memories. Of course I’m nervous — I’m not some super human who feels no fear — but this prospect is exciting to me, which is something I never really thought it would be.

Taking these risks has taught me a lot about myself. The negative aspects, I’m dealing with, because you can’t run away from your problems — you have to face them head on, no matter how unpleasant they may be. But the positive things I’ve learned about myself? I love them. I really do. I learned that I can talk to people who I don’t know because first impressions don’t last forever, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about them because every story has to start somewhere. I learned that I’m more than happy to stand up for what I believe is right, rather than rely on someone else, because you’re the only person who really truly knows what you want. I learned that if people aren’t willing to stand beside you when you change for the better, they probably weren’t as great as you thought they were, because people change and evolve. I learned to swallow my pride and apologize when needed, because that’s what being a good person is about and that’s what I’m trying to be nowadays. I’m no longer trying to be better than specific people because that’s not the key to success. I’m just trying to be a better person than I was a year ago, as cheesy as that sounds.

I’m not saying that it’s all been as perfect as it sounds, because it hasn’t. I’m a teenager and life is messy, but I like the new me. I honestly do.

New me tries harder; new me gets invited out; new me is a better version who takes more opportunities and has found old friends and turned them into new, life-long friends.

New me is doing stuff that scares her and doesn’t plan everything out to the last detail and isn’t stuck in an unescapable group because she’s too paralyzed by fear to go and do something new. Of course, doing new stuff still scares me, but I tell that little voice in my head to be quiet because that little voice, I’ve so often found, wants you to fail. When I’m too scared to do something, I think of future me and what she’s like, because she took that risk. I think of the opportunities it may open up and the people it would help, I think of the big picture and it helps, because every painting has to start somewhere.

I really like new me, and new me wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for a risk I took by doing something unplanned.

Trying new things is terrifying, there’s no way of sugar-coating it, but sometimes it pays off.

You just need to take that risk.

Annie Coloe is an aspiring writer living in Olde England. She spends her time reciting “Fun Facts” and manically learning Taylor Swift songs on her flute. You can often find her stress baking and attempting ambitious yoga poses which never see the light of day.

(Image via iStockPhoto.)

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