What are comfort zones? I like to think of comfort zones as places or situations where you feel safe, at ease, or free of stress. We all have comfort zones. Some are large, others small. Everyone has their own unique comfort zones that control their actions, thoughts and sometimes, their overall personality. Personally, I think that I have a rather small comfort zone. Even though I am somewhat of an adrenaline junky, I am very cautious and I always see the danger in things. During my 14 short years of life, I have come to realize that I have the most fun when I am doing things that are outside of my comfort zone. I love adventures and exploring new things. As I continue to experience life, I notice that my comfort zone gets larger and larger. Over the years, I have begun to make it larger by doing a variety of different, exciting, and even scary new things. The following is just one of the little adventures in my journey called life.
It was a relatively cold Utah morning. My family and I were visiting Park City during a ski/snowboard trip. We had only been riding the mountain for about 2 days, so the trails were still rather new to us. Whenever we saw a different trail that looked manageable and fun, we went for it. My dad and I were on the peak of one of the mountains while my mom and brother were on a lower area of the mountain. After a long chairlift ride, we came to an intersection where you had to pick between two trails. My dad told me to follow him to the trees that were near the left of a pretty narrow hill. When he said this I became nervous and I immediately thought “Don’t do it Riley! Don’t you remember what happened the last few times you went through the trees?” Despite my thoughts and worries, I cautiously followed my dad down the hill. When we finally reached the entrance to the trail, we stopped to “examine” the hill. We stood there for awhile, studying the terrain and then looked for it on our map to decide if we could manage it. We used our best judgement and decided that it looked feasible and we should at least give it a try. I took another look down the winding path, surrounded by trees, and I thought about the last time I was talked into going down a hill like this.
It was about one or two years earlier when my dad and I were on top of Peak 6 at Breckenridge mountain, in Colorado. He saw what looked to be a fun, open path, so we went for it. That time, I eagerly followed, no questions asked, with a grin on my face and a feeling of pure excitement. I was gliding calmly down the hill until, out of nowhere, I got jerked forward and my board came to an abrupt stop. “What?” I thought, very confused about my current situation. I quickly looked around to see what had caused the problem and as I looked down, I saw snow up to my knees. I had never been in snow this deep. I started to laugh as I looked around for my dad. Just as I thought ”Hey, where is he?,” a huge white cloud of snow slammed into the entire right half of my body. I had no idea what was happening until I saw a red streak going right past me. My dad had blinded me with his amazing carved turn. It hit me so fast that I was actually startled by it and almost knocked down. My dad is very skilled at skiing and can easily glide through powder. He is constantly showering me with snow when given the chance. At that point in my snowboard career, it was the first time I had ever boarded in big powder, so you could imagine my struggle. When I tried to shuffle my way to my dad, I failed miserably, but I didn’t stop trying. After a few more falls, a face full of snow and many horribly attempted jumps, I managed to reach my father. I shook off the snow and looked down the rest of the hill. I thought the hard part was over, but boy was I wrong. As I scanned the hill, all I could see were trees. My dad whizzed past me, speeding down the steep hill, swiftly dodging the trees and gracefully hitting the perfectly carved tracks on the packed down snow. I on the other hand stood there in disbelief. “Are you kidding me? You want me to try this?” I thought to myself. I looked around, hoping for an easier path for a newbie like me, but no. I had to go through the trees or walk all the way down. I nervously took a breath and went for it. I was not graceful or swift. It seemed like my long, lanky limbs hit every tree and my board avoided all the pre-made paths that my father took. I fell countless times and, looking back, I think walking down the hill may have been quicker. Tons of skilled skiers sped past me on the hill and I was knocked down quite a few times. Nevertheless, I did not give up and when I finally ended up making it out, I saw my dad laughing at me. It was super hard, very scary and somewhat painful, but as I reminisce and stare at what is now in front of me, I realize that it is definitely a memory for the record books and that is all I needed to push forward. I shook my head to focus and get my head back into the game in Utah. I thought to myself “I have learned a lot since then and I should definitely try it again, right? It will be a new experience and I might learn something cool.” I eventually talked myself into going down the hill, but right before I turned my board, another memory came to mind. I recalled the last year that we visited Colorado. The whole trip was great until I took the tree path on accident and ended up losing my family for a solid 45 minutes. “That was not very fun. Plus today's even colder than before! Should I just not do it?” I thought. I was panicking. “No! This will be fun! But what If I get lost or hurt again?” I had a small battle going on inside my head. I am a very indecisive person and can never make up my mind. So once again, I stopped my board and re-evaluated my previous decision. After a minute or two I managed to talk myself into going for it, thanks to the realization that so many of my favorite memories had come from stepping outside of my comfort zone. I also knew that we were only staying for about five days so I may never have the chance to do this hill again. I nervously turned my board and started my descent down the narrow, scary, tree infested, snow covered hill. I took a deep breath before I passed the first tree towering over me and to my disbelief, I wasn't doing terrible! I was actually going around the trees and I was staying on the path! I hit every turn and avoided the majority of the ice patches. It was like I was a completely different person. When I was riding the trail that day, I forgot about the cold weather and my throbbing ankles. I forgot about all of my worries and I just had fun. It was an amazing experience because It felt like I was effortlessly gliding through the trees, something I had never accomplished before. I obviously wasn't near as perfect as my father, but I was getting there. I didn't fall once and that hill was way harder than the one before! I still don’t know why or how it happened, but it did and I didn’t want to waste another moment of my newfound appreciation of that hill. I decided to use my new skills and put them to the test. I was relentless and must have went down that hill 4 more times until my teeth eventually started to chatter and my lips turned a shade of blue.
Looking back on that day, I realize that the moment of “Wow! I'm doing it” was well worth the initial fear. I expanded my comfort zone, and now I am a lot less afraid to go down hard and intimidating hills. I actually like going down tree covered hills now. This experience also led me to the realization that to expand your comfort zone, you have to take risks. You have to do scary things to build up your skills and confidence. If you don’t ever take a risk or do something intimidating, you won’t ever expand your comfort zone. To stay in touch with your adventurous and curious side and even broaden your comfort zone, do something that is crazy or new to you. Do something that is way out of your current comfort zone. Do something that makes you scared or uncomfortable. Even if it isn’t the most fun experience, you may learn new skills or expand your knowledge base. You may even learn to love something you never thought you would. I believe that you should try something new every day and constantly be expanding your comfort zone. What have you got to lose?