The Comfort Zone

April 13, 2009
By Anonymous

A comfort zone, particularly for high schoolers, serves as a no-risk, no-failure, no-rejection zone reflecting that most teenagers are not willing to extend themselves or jeopardize their reputations or risk potential embarrassment in front of their friends and acquaintances. Many students fear venturing out to try new activities or meet others who may hold similar interests. As for me, I was constructively forced out of my old group of friends who served as my comfort zone for the first two years of high school. Based on this experience, I firmly believe that people should be more receptive and open to new people who are culturally and ethnically diverse. Such experiences and people exist outside of our comfort zones a comfort zone is self-limiting and stagnant, causing us to miss out on enriching opportunities which are only available to those who extend themselves. Ultimately, I had to put myself out “there” to meet new people. As a consequence, I also tried new things and activities that my new friends embraced as their interests.

My first experience of being thrown out of my comfort zone simmered and then escalated through my sophomore year of high school. Many of my friends in freshman year had started to experiment, with little thought or consequences with boys, lifestyle choices, or unhealthy substances. For them, it was the “cool” thing to care more about revealing outfits, alcohol, parties, or dating rather than their families, academics, or the well-being of their friends. That was simply not me. None of my friends had the willpower to admit their risky behaviors, embracing peer pressure in their new group and new comfort zone of running with the in-crowd. However, they simply replaced one comfort zone for another riskier one with potentially severe consequences. This had little appeal for me.

I considered myself to be more rational and grounded than my friends and was committed to seeking out new and diverse interests. I threw myself into my studies and became actively involved with community service and student organizations. While I gained newfound confidence and reaped the rewards of my academic work, my old friends coasted in school, with little thought or concern for their futures and not caring whether they would receive a summer school notification. As a direct result of our conflicting opinions and judgments regarding what was socially and morally right or acceptable, I accepted our differences but found we no longer shared the same interests, the only basis of our friendship. I could not go along with their group just to be accepted.

Consequently, I experienced a high school student’s worst nightmare: set adrift with no peer group.

To keep myself occupied during the summer before junior year, I attended a ten-day out-of-state college tour with other students from my school and gained the self-confidence necessary to make and cultivate new friends that would, at the very least, respect—if not share—my interests.

The first month of junior year was nerve-racking, between adjusting to the rigorous demand of coursework and making new friends. I would switch lunch tables daily. Eventually, I came across a group of girls whom I had been looking for all along. They accepted me with no prejudgments and shared mutual interests. In addition, these girls were well-centered and regarded themselves with the same self-respect and standards which I held for myself. To this day, these girls are still my friends, but I am also open to others who come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and walks of life, sans judgment calls. I have a newfound empathy for what these girls may have experienced.

Being locked in only one comfort zone did not benefit me, contrary to what many high school students believe. My first comfort zone required no effort and less imagination with no personal growth. Comfort equaled stagnation. A quote from the television series Boy Meets World sums up my personal experiences with peer groups: “Lose one friend, lose all friends, but don’t lose yourself.” All people should be more receptive and open-minded towards others who exist outside of their comfort zones and willing to invest the energy to get to know them. You will be richly rewarded for your efforts.

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