It’s not easy for me to get out of my comfort zone. For 26 years I’ve struggled with change, something that only seems to have gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I blame it on being a full-fledged member of the adult world now. No longer the big fish in the small pond of high school and college, I’m that small fish in the biggest of oceans.
The anxiety and indecisiveness I feel on a daily basis can be so overwhelming. Having a mental crisis because I can’t find something I’ll eat on the menu at a nice restaurant and being unable to commit to going on new adventures on the weekends just isn’t who I want to be anymore.
Seeing my struggles, my friends challenged me to try 30 new things in 30 days as a way to get out of my comfort zone and cope with change, even if the changes were very small.
I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Part of me felt like I’d quit after a few days and give up altogether.
But another part of me was very excited to see what I might discover over the next month.
I didn’t set myself up to try specific things each day. My friends said if the opportunity to try something new arises that I should take a leap of faith and go for it rather than stress myself out more by coming up with a list of new experiences.
Most of my 30 new things were food related. As a notoriously picky eater, I wanted to discover new foods I’d never eaten before. It’s not exactly cute for a woman in her mid-20s to order chicken tenders at a nice dinner with the in-laws, so I wanted to challenge myself to try new flavors I wouldn’t normally go for.
On my first day, I tried a new donut shop and sampled caramel, bacon maple, strawberry shortcake and coffee flavored donuts instead of grabbing my tried and true chocolate glazed or cinnamon. Surprisingly, a donut covered in maple and bacon was delicious. I’d never consider eating a donut with bacon on it. No one could have been more surprised that I liked it.
As the days progressed, I tried Mexican candy, guacamole, a frappucino, bourbon glazed salmon, corn nuggets and mushroom sauce on my steak. Of all the food items I tried, I can say I am still not a fan of coffee.
It wasn’t just a month of trying new foods, as possibilities opened up around the house and while I was on vacation.
At the house, my sink and shower drains were clogged, and without waiting for my husband to get home from work, I decided to take it upon myself to learn how to unclog them on my own. It was a messy job, but I can proudly say that I was successful.
Health wise, I had been slacking on my goals and felt myself slipping both physically and mentally. My friends suggested creating a positive mantra as one of my “something new” challenges. I spent a couple hours on a Saturday crafting the perfect mantra to say in order to change my outlook on life. It further inspired me to set up my weight loss journey and learn about meal prepping. I ordered bento boxes and began pre-planning my weekly meals.
Towards the end of my month, I went on an Alaskan cruise with my parents and husband which presented me with plenty of new things to try over eight days.
First, it was a personal goal of mine to not have a panic attack on the flight to Seattle. I’ve always been terrified of flying. In fact, I didn’t get on my first flight until last summer, and when I did, I had a massive panic attack.
This time I was determined to keep my calm and make it through the flight without crying and hyperventilating. To stay calm I watched “Mary Queen of Scots,” a film I had been wanting to watch. It wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be, but it kept me distracted from all the turbulence.
Then it was time to get on the ship and explore Alaska. I worked up the courage to explore Juneau with my husband where we went whale watching and then searched to find some bears to photograph. We were successful on both counts.
In Skagway, I stood outside of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway train (in a dress too!) to get the best shots of the scenery. It was a bit scary and extremely chilly as the train climbed into the bumpy mountains, but I can certainly say I’d never done that before.
Back on the ship, I worked up the courage to test out the sky diving simulating chamber. Since I can safely say that I will never go skydiving for real, it was a rush to get as close to the real thing as I will get.
And, while my husband decided to sleep in, one morning I decided to explore the ship completely on my own. I never like going off by myself, especially eating a meal out in public alone - but here I was eating an egg and bacon croissant (also something new) watching the waves go by.
After I finished my meal, I went to one of the bars where a game of trivia was about to start. I didn’t have a team which was required, so I almost walked out until a lovely old woman sitting next to me asked if I needed a team member.
Normally I would have been too shy, but I decided to say yes. It led to a woman from Indiana and couples from Florida and Mexico and myself working together to take second place.
What I learned from this experience of trying new things wasn’t what I thought it’d be. I thought I’d come back and pen my thoughts about trying jelly for the first time. I thought I’d write about each of the 30 things and what I liked and what I didn’t like.
As it turned out, I liked most of the things I tried and would definitely do it all again.
The most important thing I learned is that my world didn’t stop turning because I gravitated to something new. And, I ended up liking most everything I tried so now I can only think about what else I might be missing out on.
Waking up each day knowing I was going to try something new got me out of my head and excited to see what possibilities would unfold during my day. Now, I actually look to see if there’s something I can do to get out of my comfort zone so that I can continue broadening my horizons.
I could feel my anxiety and indecisiveness sitting on the sideline for a few days because I wasn’t struggling to make a decision on what I could eat or what activity I wanted to do. I didn’t allow myself enough time to overthink. I just said “yes” to the possibility and didn’t look back.
Trying 30 new things in 30 days opened my eyes to a wide world I’ve been missing out on by being picky, timid and indecisive. I realize now how silly I’ve been all these years by not taking risks and exploring life.
Though my 30 days of this challenge has officially ended, I carry with me the idea that every day I wake up, I should strive to do one new thing per day. Who knows, maybe there will be another 30 day or 60 day challenge in my future.
Jessica Taylor is the education and features reporter for the Dawson County News. Her columns will appear periodically.