Stepping outside the comfort zone to find who you really are

Rebecca Schultze

Rebecca Schultze

As I return to school for my tenth semester, the novelty and the excitement of the first day of school have worn off and diminished.

During my first four years at South Dakota State University, I allowed myself to become sucked into the comfort of the known and the familiar. Having a strong background in science, I pursued a degree in biology and successfully graduated in May of 2001. However, the familiarity of science did not lead me to happiness when it came to finding a job.

Thus, I returned to SDSU last January to step outside of my comfort zone. I hope to graduate for a second time in May 2003 with a degree in journalism. I have never looked back with regret on my decision.

When reflecting on my past, I found that I made the greatest strides in my life by taking a leap of faith, escaping the bindings of routine and veering off the well-worn path.

My high school coaches used to preach about stepping outside of the comfort zone. They said it is the only way to become better.

They were right.

The funny thing is that it holds true for all aspects of life.

Three summers ago, I drove to Winthrop, Wash., not knowing a soul, to be a free-labor intern at Pacific Biodiversity Institute, an environmental research organization. I came back the same person, but I had grown tremendously as an individual. I had finally gone out on my own and faced the unknown.

Consciously stepping outside of the comfort zone prepares you to take on the unexpected. It prepares you for the unanticipated bumps in life on an otherwise smooth road.

Car troubles plagued my drive across the country. On my third day on the road my Bonneville puttered into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where it would stay for four days and, therefore, so would I.

While my parents worried from their helpless locale in northeastern South Dakota, I spent four wonderful days exploring the beautiful city of Coeur d’Alene and the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

I was stranded in a strange city with little money and no familiar faces. Yet, I made the most of this situation. The unfamiliar became wonderful.

And thus I try to make each day a unique gift to myself. Even if it is small, I try to throw in one new change to the otherwise constant process of going to class, work and sleep.

Having new experiences, seeing new sights, making new friends and learning new concepts and skills make life worth living. Without fresh insight on the world each day, life becomes one big circle where you end up exactly where you began.

SDSU provides a plethora of unique opportunities from the large selection of classes to speakers and clubs to the thousands of other students, who can be seen as sources of knowledge, can teach new skills or can become a friend.

The world is bursting at the seams with opportunity. Grab hold and don’t let go.

Rebecca Schultze is the Collegian’s campus and community editor. Write to her at [email protected].