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Lessons to Live By: “Sneak”ing out of your comfort zone

Hello again. Thanks for checking in! So, I’ve got something on my mind that happened a few months ago that I’ve been meaning to share. It was a tough lesson for me to learn (and kind of tough for me to re-tell), but one that I think is worth talking about. 

Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t always an easy thing for kids to understand, I know. But sometimes, pushing your limits is an important thing to do.

A while back, my mom told me that I needed a new pair of shoes. There were some special events coming up for our family. Only problem is, I’m more of a sneaker’s kind of a person. Sneakers are what I feel best in, and what I look the best in (at least I think so). So you can see why I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone (pun intended!).

I said “What if I just got a nice pair of sneakers instead?”

My mom explained that even though she knew I preferred sneakers, sometimes they aren’t appropriate to wear. I disagreed. Sneakers should always be appropriate. We went back and forth until finally my mom and I reached a compromise.

Taking small steps to make great strides

We agreed that I would pick out shoes that were fancier than sneakers but didn’t have to be that fancy.

After a handshake to seal the deal, we went to the Great Falls Galleria Mall. My mom said that after we got my shoes, we could window shop at the toy store for my birthday present. I agreed, hoping maybe she’d buy me something from the toy store anyway.

When we got to the shoe store, I circled around and around. I was looking for just the right pair of shoes. It was hard to find something I liked. Sneakers were what was in my comfort zone. Unfortunately, there were no shoes that looked exactly like sneakers.

I could tell my mom was getting impatient.

Finally, I spotted a pair of blue suede shoes (yes, I know there’s a famous song about them). Blue is my favorite color, and the shoes were soft. If I had to get out of my comfort zone, at least my feet would be comfortable. Plus, they were slip-on shoes, so I wouldn’t have to bother with laces.

The best part for my mom—other than me finally picking out a pair of shoes—was that they were on sale.

Resisting being changed

When we got home (one ice cream—but no toys—later), I took the shoes out of the box and put them in my closet. I put the shoe box in our garage with all the newspapers and boxes my parents had collected for recycling.

“Are you sure those shoes fit?” my mom asked when she saw me getting rid of the shoe box. “If you don’t have the box, you can’t return the shoes.”

“The shoes fit fine,” I said.

A week went by, and I didn’t wear the blue shoes. Then, another week. We had plans for a birthday dinner at a fancier than usual restaurant. I picked out a nice pair of pants and shirt. I looked in my closet and saw the blue shoes. Instead of wearing the blue shoes, I put on my sneakers. I didn’t need to look that fancy today.

 Fortunately for me, we were running late for the dinner.

“Why aren’t you wearing your new blue shoes?” my mother asked when I came downstairs. “They would be perfect for this occasion.” 

“I already have my sneakers on,” I answered. “And Daddy said we were already late so there’s no time to change.”

My mom looked annoyed but didn’t say anything. I hoped she would leave me alone and not mention the blue shoes anymore. 

You can’t see with your eyes closed

Several weeks passed without me wearing the new blue shoes. At some point, I guess they probably didn’t count as new anymore.  

Finally, one day, my mom said, “Noodle, you’ve had those blue shoes for quite some time now. You haven’t worn them once. Soon enough, they’ll be too small on you.”

“That’s true,” I said, unsure how to respond.

“We agreed that you would get a pair of shoes and that you would wear them. But you haven’t. Those shoes cost money. It’s a waste not to wear them. So here’s the deal: you either pay me back fifteen dollars or you wear the shoes.”

Well, I didn’t have fifteen dollars. And any money I had, I didn’t want to use for those blue shoes.

“How long do I have to wear them?” I asked. My mother was surprised by the question.

“Fifteen hours,” she answered, after a very long pause. “You have to wear the shoes for at least fifteen hours.”

Fifteen hours seemed like a long time. I guess I could’ve just worn them to school a few times, but I really didn’t want to.  

The one thing my mother didn’t say about the fifteen hours was where I had to wear the blue shoes.  

SOOO, I came up with a plan. One that wouldn’t really take me outside my comfort zone. 

I would only wear the blue shoes inside! 

I wore the blue shoes when I did my homework. I wore the shoes when I practiced piano. I wore the shoes after I put on my pajamas at night. They were actually better than wearing slippers. 

I kept track of every hour I wore those blue shoes. 

My fifteen-hour (or)deal

After I completed hour fifteen, I told my mom “I’m never wearing these shoes again.” She had no choice but to agree. A deal was a deal.

Now, some of you might be saying, “Noodle, you are very clever. I admire you.” To that, I’d say, “thank you very much.”

But, there might be others of you out there saying, “Do you really think your mother meant that you would never wear the shoes outside? Do you think you did the right thing?”

To that I’d say, “Maybe not.” As much as I hate to admit it, I had let staying in my comfort zone get the better of me.  

Perhaps if I had given those blue shoes more of a chance, I might have looked nicer for those fancier occasions. (I know my dirty, old sneakers didn’t look as good as the pair of blue shoes would have.)

I learned one of the lessons to live by too late: be open to things that may be outside your immediate comfort zone. 

When you can’t change the situation, change your attitude

I’ve given a lot of thought as to why I resisted wearing those blue shoes so much. 

Well, the most obvious answer is that I was being a little stubborn. I didn’t like being told that I had to wear those shoes. 

In my mother’s defense, she just wanted me to be a little dressier for special occasions.  (And, of course, not waste money.)

Another realization I made was, maybe, on some level, I was afraid. Afraid, you say? How could you be afraid of wearing shoes? 

That’s not what I mean, of course!

I was afraid (ok, worried) that someone would make fun of me for not wearing my usual sneakers. Like “Oooh, look at Noodle wearing those blue shoes.”

However, I didn’t take into account that maybe I’d be complimented for wearing the blue shoes. (You can read that same sentence above in a more positive tone and it’ll sound like a compliment.)

Although I probably wouldn’t admit this to my mom, I realized that didn’t have the right attitude about the shoes. I was more focused on proving a point (I like sneakers better) instead of adding a perfectly good pair of shoes to my collection.

Too late too soon

My mom was right in predicting that my foot would grow, and the blue shoes wouldn’t fit me anymore. By summertime, the blue shoes were too small. 

I will say this: I finally wore the blue shoes to an end-of-year jazz concert we had at school. The shoes perfectly matched the blue top I had picked out. While the shoes were a little bit tight it was worth wearing them. A bunch of people told me how nice my shoes looked…and how perfectly the blue shoes went with our orchestra playing “the blues.” Too bad I didn’t wear them sooner.

The hard lesson I’ve learned is don’t let the blue shoes in your life get in your way. Stepping out of your comfort zone just might help you experience something new. It might even make you a better and stronger person.

OK, it’s time for me to go. I promise I’ll be back soon.

Until then, be your best you.

Have you ever done something out of your comfort zone? How did you feel afterwards? Tell me about it in the comments section!

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