When was the last time you did something that catapulted you out of comfort? For me, it seems that of late I have been having an uninvited run-in with my out-of-comfort zone and I’m wondering what it’s all about, while at the same time moving cautiously through it.
Today is October 31, 2014. It’s the day many celebrate Halloween, Hallelujah Night, Fall Festival, Trunk-or-Treat, or whatever suits their faith or fancy. I learned just two days prior to today that my office was going to dress up for this special day. My first thought was, “Oh, no, ma’am. SHE is not doing that.” Halloween has never been one of my favorite days for several reasons. I’m a scary cat. I don’t like cats. I hate the devil, witches, monsters or any evil entities. I don’t eat a lot of candy and I don’t like messing my hair up. Further more, it took me too many years to finally become cool with ‘me’ so at this juncture in life hiding me behind a mask, a colored wig (other than the fancy ones I prefer), or some other concoction (unless it’s a fabulously flowing gown with feather boas and sparkly jewels of some sort) was just not my cup of brew. And still, I could hear that little voice that I often ignored say, “come out of comfort”. So I did.
Today, I don the look of a nerd complete with suspenders, bow tie, bi-focal-esq glasses, flat shoes and ponytails. I will take one for the team and rep that look until 11:30am (CST) until I quickly transform back to Casual Friday Angela complete with blazer, jewelry and peep-toe booties.
As I type, it’s 7:32 am. I’ve made my first encounter with a co-worker, two actually, who are here just as early as I am each day. Hoping I would be able to make it down the hall without seeing them I sucked my teeth when I heard the sound of their early morning banter welcoming me into the foyer. I walked, with my Honey Crisp apple and cup in hand headed upstairs to the kitchen. Then it happened…they laughed at me. I mean they balled over holding their stomachs like they’d had chili, onion rings, spinach dip, Miralax and a milkshake for breakfast. Mind you, after they “came to” they both said, “You look soooooo cute”, but by then, to me, it was too late. I’d already contemplated changing into my Casual Friday Angela clothes and just being plain ol’ defiant to the team building we are hoping to happen today. At the sound of their chuckle, I realized why comfort and me had become so comfortable. It’s quite cozy staying in the comfort zone. I, like most, (I’m sure) prefer to be seen in the best light possible. Blame it on my ancestors if you will, who were the picture of pose and grace, keeping secrets, fixing things behind the scenes, banding together for the greater good, or doing whatever to always be sure their best foot and face were forward. Blame it on my past career in television where I was trained to be proper and professional, which did nothing but further reinforce what was already in my DNA. Blame it on the nine years I spent being a pastor’s wife where decorum and order were the order of the day. Or you could (and should) simply blame it on me, as being this is just who I was and how I’ve been. I’ve always been reserved, from birth. But I’m starting to see how that a bit of comfort has snuggled it’s way up underneath my “reserve” and made itself quite at home.
Comfort has kept me from so much. Some of those things were good, others not so good. I’ve never been a drinker. When I tell people that I’ve never drank they think I’m some sort of time-honored treasure (in other words a prude) worthy of a small badge of honor. Not hardly! I’m simply a girl who, again, likes to be seen in the best light possible. So the thought of taking my first swig of whatever sweet or strong, luring elixir awaits me and ending up on a best-selling Grown Girls Gone Bezerk video freaks the living hebedejebees out of me. Therefore I have opted to remain alcohol free for 42 year and counting. That kind of comfort is cool. Then there’s the comfort which would often tell me to “be satisfied with where I am” even though I know there’s more for me to see, say and do. There’s the kind that prevents me from being a risk taker on things big or small. (Don’t dare ask me to gamble for you because I’m betting low, staying there until I win then getting the heck out of dodge). There’s the kind that has often stifled me from speaking up on my behalf or the behalf of others. There’s the kind that prevented me from trying out for things in school, or pursuing a side hustle as a cosmetologist, and the list goes on.
That is, until today, when I came out of comfort and showed Nerd Girl to the world…at least for a few hours. And the countdown to comfortable Casual Friday Angela starts…NOW.
Social media is a friend of mine! I say that jokingly, but am actually quite serious. It amazes me how many people from different stages of my life I’ve been able to reconnect with via this little engine called the World Wide Web. I’ll be the first to admit that some of the friend requests I’ve rendered and received have shocked me. Drama is real and it certainly was real in my “I didn’t know any better and didn’t want to know any better” years. But still, we press on and press that “send” button and make our “friend” request known. And wouldn’t you know it, low and behold, the ones we least expect actually “like” us…and we actually “like” them too, but for real, and not just from behind a computer or phone screen. Wow, life does go on and people (including me) actually do grow up.
During this month I have had the pleasure to be reconnected with others from my past. As I pondered the idea of reconnecting I had mixed emotions. Teenage years and teenage actions (including my own) can be a beast! With a bit of trepidation, and a lot of gratefulness, I’ve seen in just 30 short days how God’s strategic plan for our lives is just that…strategic. Sometimes He plants the seed, prunes the leaves or plucks the ground, but still allows the harvest when we least expect it and most often need it.
Just yesterday, I spent the most refreshing time chatting it up with one of my very best friends of years gone by. We’d not verbally spoken in more than two decades because of teenageness too insignificant to warrant an explanation, but of which we both had previously offered an apology. When my phone rang and I heard her voice it was as if we were curling our stacked bobs or dancing around in her parent’s den to New Edition or Al B. Sure like we did so many, many times before. We picked right back up like it was the 1980s. My heart leaped at the thought of having my dear sister back in my life. I also further forged growing friendships with people I went to college with, and knew of, but didn’t know, and now I wish I had known before. They are a hoot! (I’d like to chalk that up to God knowing that some people can’t handle our “crazy” so He waits until we’re all cleaned up to re-present us as brand, spanking new.) As if that weren’t fantabulous enough, a week ago I was able to sit and meet with another person from my past, with whom I might not have treated the best, over a boy, of course, in the hallowed halls of the very place we shared in common. Talking, brainstorming ideas and cracking up with her made me see why he would prefer us both. He had good taste in some great girls, who turned out to be great women. (If he were looking down, I bet there was a great, big Cheshire cat grin from Heaven at the site of us connecting with each other. RIP KRW)
I’ve learned, that some of the drama, mess, fussin’ and falling out that happens as we evolve is just what humans do when we are growing and changing and learning about life while at the same time trying to learn about ourselves. It’s our responsibility as we endure that process to allow the same process in a person’s life to be complete. I can’t remove the childish actions that might have been done to me by people in my past and I certainly can’t remove the childish actions I might have done, but the thought that one day it can all come back together again, in whatever more mature form it reappears is mind-boggling. Now, will all the people I fell out with over my 42 years of living become my new bffs? Quite possibly not. But with my fair share of “falling outs”, there’s something I know. Not all relationships start out as forever, but some end up forever. It’s okay to take a break. There’s a beauty in the pause!
So, if you’re one of my friends that I’ve ever fallen out with or has ever fallen out with me please know I’m glad we fell out so we could figure out that sometimes there has to be a brief disconnection to make room for a beautiful reconnection. Hopefully we’ve lived and we’ve learned that what brings us together is much more important than what tore us apart… especially if it happened during an era where MC Hammer, A-symmetrical hair cuts, Guess jeans and fat gold chains were the order of the day.
I spent five years in college at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide!!!). That’s longer than the four years most students endured. My extended stay in T-town allowed me an opportunity to get to know the process toward graduation in a very intimate and often unwanted way. In college there was the option to add a class needed for graduation, then drop it by mid-season with the option to take it later, take it from another professor or take something else totally different, but still fitting the required courses. The key was, once you reached a certain point in the semester dropping was not an option. You were too far in, and the system knew it so you had to stick it out (or suffer the wrath). I would not be truthful if I said I didn’t delight in using the “drop/add” amenity a time or two.
Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes if life was that way? With all that we go through, some things expected and some which completely catch us off guard, wouldn’t it be just terrific if we could hand-pick our path to the finish, dropping and adding like the days in my beloved Rose Towers dormitory? Why can’t we simply go to the Counselor (God) and say, “May I drop this class please?” Wouldn’t it be neat if we could pick and choose the “lessons” we learn, putting off the ones we feel are too tough or inconvenient, and opting for an easier route?
Like college, life isn’t always that way. Grace and mercy are often in full effect, but there are somethings that we simply have to go through. We can’t always pick and choose the paths we travel in order get to where we’re meant to be. Sometimes we have to just suck it up, and stick it out through some hard lessons before crossing the big stage or the finish line.
I remember my second senior year (my fifth year), and I was faced with finally taking a course I’d put off as long as possible…Statistics. I was almost at the end of my time at Bama, and too far in to turn back. Math was not my forte. It never, ever was, dating back to my first “C” in 7th grade while in Mrs. Cox’s class at Homewood Middle School, to my foray into the world of summer school my 10th grade year compliments of my inability to grasp Geometry from Ms. Merkerson’s class at Ramsay Alternative High School, to freaking out my freshman year in college after oversleeping for my very first college semester exam, that just so happened to be, you guessed it, math. Math and I have always had a hate/hate relationship. It’s my constant reminder that I am nowhere near perfect. I digress. Back to the Capstone. Well, there I am in the fall of 1994, forced with no choice but to take that dreaded Stat class. To make a long story and what felt like an even longer semester short, I not only passed the class, I aced it, literally. Your girl made an A. Now, don’t ask me how I made an A because I honestly can’t tell you. What I can say is that the instructor, whose name escapes me, was so enjoyable, thoughtful and nurturing in her teaching, that decades of built up fear and self-doubt seemed to have disappeared. I also found a great group of study buddies who helped me along the way, and because I knew I had to do it I guess something in me just did it.
Some things in life are hard as the dickens. There, I said it. There are some things which, good or bad simply don’t make sense and won’t make sense. There have been so many times in life I’ve wanted to ask if I could not have to learn a lesson, or not have to repeat a lesson I didn’t learn or not have to repeat a lesson I thought I’d already learned, sometimes to the point of begging God wanting to say “please, pretty please with an extra Hallelujah on top.” And still, because He knew what was in me, what was best for me, and who He had ready to help me God allowed the tough lessons to become some of the most valuable (and often most hilarious) ones I have. Now that, my darlings is the mark of an Excellent Teacher!