I sat at my desk wondering if I could do much more of this. I just answered my fifth phone call from a client who panicked that Department of Human Services had closed their case. This came in addition to the several other clients who either wanted their services increased or to enter a nursing home. And like clockwork, more company wide emails arrived about additional and unnecessary rules and regulations. The daily grind had officially started to fucking grind me daily.
It’s not that this was a bad job. I just didn’t have a knack for social work or office life. I could barely solve my own problems, much less be appropriate about it. The only reason I stayed at this gig for nine years was because this particular agency made it such a comfortable place to work. They practically threw buttloads (the proper measurement) of “paid time off” at us, and we even got to design our own schedules. So long as our duties got done, we could get by with barely working a 30 hour week.
However you know how it goes when you sit in a big, comfy chair for way too long? It sneaks up on ya and suddenly you’re sore as all get out. Sure I had the security of steady pay and decent health benefits, but I started to develop some serious workplace welts. If I stayed much longer, I’d end up becoming some self-induced Gump with a bad buzz-cut, sitting on the edge of a bench, metaphorically bragging about my box of chocolates to total strangers.
While I could switch things up by making a lateral move to another agency, it wouldn’t take long before that seat got all too uncomfortable as well. I didn’t need a new chair. I needed to sit in something entirely different – something creative where I could still connect with people but not be responsible for them. I wanted to be my own boss and not follow all of those unnec-essary rules and regulations. And I certainly wanted to stop wearing those damn long sleeves (or much of any clothing for that matter) to cover up my tattoos. Really, I just wanted to be a writer.
Fortunately being a writer wasn’t so out-of-place for me. I always had a knack for it – from grade school into college. I even landed a side gig writing for a local LGBT publication. But I didn’t want to just write articles for others. I knew I had it in me to write one of those big, girthy things that no one ever reads anymore – they were called “books” or something like that.
In order to do this, I’d have to take a huge leap of faith and get out of my comfort zone. Otherwise I’d end up in hell. So after a lot of intense financial planning, I pulled the plug and put in my two weeks notice. My coworkers cheered as I declared that I’d become a writer of said books. Although I’m sure a few rolled their eyes behind my back. It was fine. I’d show them.
However in the first few months, nothing went as planned. That was probably because I had forgotten to actually make any kind of plan. I told everyone that I just needed time to heal from the workplace, but really I was just some Type A personality that’d rather clean the house than face the fact that I had no idea how to do this. As it turned out, I wasn’t so good without those unnecessary rules and regulations – without structure.
I successfully got to shed all of that terrible work attire. But instead of running naked and free in an open field, I now wandered around totally lost in a forest that made no sense. Every time I even tried to sit down and write, my brain got riddled with fear and went blank. I felt wounded that the writer’s life hadn’t been as romantic as I thought. Dammit, why didn’t a bring a first aid kit? Surely a bear would come eat me up at any moment.
Who would have thought that getting out of your comfort zone would have been so freak-ing… uncomfortable? I was like one of those cats who clawed their way onto a curtain and now had no clue what to do next. So now what? Really, I had two choices. I could either sit there and wallow in my discomfort until I wasted all my resources and ended up back in the place I so desperately needed to leave. Or I could stop bitching and just start writing – even if my writing sucked. Maybe it’d eventually not suck and I could find my way out of this god forsaken forest.
So I did just that. I started writing, not knowing what would come of any of it. And it did kind of suck. But after a few months, things began to take shape. I got into the rhythm, I got in-spired, and I had a clear vision of what my first book would be about. However right when I thought I found my way out of the forest, I discovered that nowadays, in order to become a successful author, one must first become a successful blogger – getting myself all turned around and lost yet again.
By this time though, I learned some new survival skills. I didn’t know a lot about blogs, much less how to make one. But now tackling the unknown didn’t feel so terrifying. I’d sharpen my sticks and pitch some tents and figure this one out too. With the help of some awesome woodland creatures, I ended up assembling a blog that would surprisingly gain a quick following (and seriously, my friend, who works in branding, is like the otteriest of all otters).
This is what getting out of our comfort zones is all about. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be scary. And if it weren’t scary, it’d be comfortable. And if it were comfortable, we’d be right back where we started in the first place. The discomfort is what creates the change that we crave. And it certainly doesn’t stop after we take that first leap of faith either. Rather it continues long after our feet hit the ground. We just get better at figuring it out as we run.
So here I am: a blogger, not yet an author – still wandering the forest. But that’s okay. I’ve come to realize that in order to find your way, you’re just going to have to get lost in the first place. Although it might be uncomfortable at first, you never know what (or who) you’ll find. Some say that not all who wonder are lost, but I say that for those of us who are lost, we are right where we need to be. Because in the end, we simply can’t make change by sticking to the paths we already know.
About Scott McGlothlen
Scott McGlothlen hails from his native Denver, CO and specializes in writing real life stories with total disclosure and wild abandon. His sense of humor, humility, and sometimes salty mouth, generates a new breed of authenticity. Scott’s blog, The Bare InkSlinger, takes his work to another level by truly “baring it all” (and we mean ALL). While most stories come from his own life, his vastly growing audience finds the themes universal and entertaining. Scott’s currently working on his first book which will be due in the spring of 2018.