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  • Writer's pictureMaria Samuel

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

In a previous post, I spoke about transitioning to life in the Big Apple and the struggles I faced living on my own. That was, by far, the most educational and inspiring part of my life. I learned how to endure in the face of hardship, how to pick myself up when things did not seem to go my way, and how to problem solve on my own in an unchartered domain. With that said, life moved on, mistakes were made, but, most importantly, lessons were learned. People always comment about the directness of New Yorkers and their opinionated (oftentimes harsh) demeanor. But, what amazes me more is their resilience. I have been rudely spoken to, almost been hit by a cab driver who obstinately refused to slow down as I was crossing the road, and rudely ignored at the grocery store or restaurants when placing orders or requests. Growing up in a small town where people greeted each other with a smile or strangers struck up conversations just to form any semblance of a connection, I was, as you can imagine, shocked and mortified by the attitudes faced in NYC. But I too learned to adapt and have the resilience to speak up and have a voice. I had two choices: either choose to ignore it and forget my requests or assert myself without faulting anyone. Gradually, I learned to adapt the latter. My confidence and self esteem flourished and, I realized, that while meekness is a true Christian value and silence is sometimes the best approach, wisdom also dictates assertiveness at the right time and in the right situations.

Three years in Manhattan flew in a blink of an eye and I found myself moving yet again to yet another city - St. Louis, Missouri. In a short period of time and, of course with my family's guidance, I settled in to a different, calmer lifestyle. The beautiful trails of St. Louis, the foliage during spring, and the snow coated roads during the wintertime. I transitioned from walking everywhere and learning the complicated public transportation system of NYC to driving in the wintertime with ice, sleet and snow. Having grown up in Florida, this was a whole new feat to overcome. I remember one day on my way to work, as I was accelerating my small Honda Civic onto the ramp leading to the interstate, I watched (what felt like in slow motion) as the car ahead of me slid ever so slowly towards me. The only option I had was to strategically swerve into the ditch on the sideline to avoid a collision.

St. Louis not only brought about the calmness and peace I was seeking after the fast paced lifestyle of NYC, but also another chance to develop and grow. Sure, now I had become more assertive and outspoken, but I learned how to better hone this skill. Not every interaction or "argument" or disagreement requires a counter reaction. The best reply sometimes is no reply at all. My entire fellowship program was a melting pot of individuals from different walks of life, religions, and cultures. We all respected each other and, despite our differences, still shared in each others' joys and sadness. We all had our own separate struggles and yet, cohesively, we became each other's support system. This was a microcosm of a Utopia that, sadly, does not even reflect the world outside. It was a safe place. As I write this now, I am reflecting

on the current state of the world we live in. Hatred, racism, and despair - all brought about not by God, but rather by our own fallen and corrupt natures. We live in a cut throat world, each to his own, a society fueled by the attitude of "one upping" another to get ahead. We do not even take time to reflect on our own blessings as we are so busy focusing on the future and our next move to get ahead. We became consumed by the materialism of the world that we have lost our own sense of selves in the process. Is that truly our identity? Is that what will make us great? Trampling on others to get ahead? Or, worse yet, ignoring those who are in need of our help? The image on my Home page is a photo of the Lennon Wall in Prague. Seeing it in person was inexplicable. The word "love" is written in different languages all over the wall. What a great message of unity this reflects. Although we all come from different walks of life, we are all united as one body. Love and kindness drive out darkness and hate. If we all lived by this mantra, what a better world it would be!

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