Thoughts From Our Balcony: Comfort Zones

The balcony of my Airbnb hovers over the busy streets of Mile-End in Outremont. As I sit on the landing that is covered with colorful wooden pots and flowers, I feel at peace and think about comfort zones and how often people push their boundaries—especially myself. I know this may sound silly, but to me, this trip and exact moment in time is out of my comfort zone.

While I write on our balcony, flurries of cars, motorbikes, and people pass underneath me playing music, laughing, and talking. Some are friendly and smile as they pass by. This morning, I woke up at 7 (that’s the time my body wakes up now…the joys of the internal clock!) after an interesting night of sleep. Oftentimes, I cannot sleep in new places, and this night was not any different. This feeling of the “unknown” along with being jazzed from the espresso I had at 10 p.m. the night before (oops) was flooding my system as I lied in bed thinking about all of the different ways we stepped out of our comfort zones that day.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was Ian’s first time out of the country. I remember as we were driving towards the border, my husband’s attitude changed; he started acting apprehensive and quiet. I remember grabbing his hand, and instead of telling him it will be OK, I just talked about how exciting it was to travel to a new place! Honestly, I felt it too, but some reassurance and talking about our excitement helped. The apprehension faded until we arrived in Montréal and found the place where we’d be staying for the next few days. Don’t get me wrong—the place is darling. It’s exactly what the pictures looked like, and the host has been so helpful the entire process. It was just this: We’ve never done this before. Not only are all of the parking signs in French (good thing we know military time and the days of the week in French!), but we also do not know the area. We don’t know where the good restaurants are. We don’t know where are going. We felt very vulnerable. I kept telling myself that this was what made this trip exciting!

We unpacked and found our route using the map that our host left for us. Our apartment is nestled in a busy area filled with artists, musicians, and beautiful architecture. We enjoyed the walk to the hubbub of restaurants. It was here, however, where we began to pause. We were extremely nervous to approach the restaurants let alone eat there. After looking at many and deciding that we would keep on going to the next one, I decided that we stop at a quaint, Parisian looking restaurant. When we sat down at a table, we noticed that the entire menu was in French. We had no idea what to order (another post to come on this particular topic!) and were embarrassed that we didn’t know the language that well. Our waitress, who spoke English, helped us immensely, but we couldn’t help but feel even more out of our comfort zone. But, Ian and I both tried new food and found ourselves loving the experience, excited for more to come.

On this journey, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite literary quotes. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo recollects something that Bilbo used to tell him about adventures:

“He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.”

Yesterday, I learned that it is OK to break out of your comfort zone. It’s OK to try new things and take safe risks. If we don’t take risks, then we simply aren’t living. When we first arrived and that feeling of overwhelming, “I don’t know where I am” panic arose, we could have just found a hotel and relocated somewhere a little closer to the main part of the city. But we didn’t; we chose to just “be.” Break out of your comfort zones. Explore. Don’t be afraid.

In our apartment, our host has created beautiful masterpieces and paintings that she hangs around her home. They are awe-inspiring and motivational. One of my favorites is something that she sketched. It hangs on a wall right as you walk in the door. I plan to look at it every day while I am here and remember it thereafter as a reminder to let go, just be, and take life as it comes.

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Why I Read, Why I Write

Reading and writing has always been an obsession of mine. Here’s why.

Ever since I could remember, I’ve had a book in my hand. I remember being in kindergarten and sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor with a sea of books in front of me. I still experience that exciting, greedy feeling as I took in the pile of books in one huge gulp.

I love reading. In the summertime, I have fond memories of lying in a hammock with a stack of books at my side checking off my summer reading list. The library was never a chore; I would scurry into the children’s section with an impassive wave to my mother and get lost in Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, and E.B. White. I’d check out books with my library card and surprise my mom a week later letting her know that I finished them, and wanted to go back to the library for more. Bookworm was and still is, a loose term to describe my crazed obsession.

With the help of books, you are always on an exhilarating adventure. With wide eyes, I have made my way through the wardrobe and discovered Narnia with Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund. I journeyed through Middle Earth with Bilbo Baggins and eventually made the same trip with Frodo and Sam. I pushed my trunk and other belongings through Platform 9 3/4 and hopped on the Hogwarts Express with Harry and his friends. With literature, anything is possible, and that’s a beautiful thought, indeed.

Ever since I was little, reading has always been my escape. When times were tough, I would open my books and tune out the sound around me. I would cling on to its bindings and flip its pages in hopes that I would find solace, and I almost always did. As an adult, I still find myself clasping on to stories in the hope that I can find peace in myself.

Literature is something that is sacred to me. With literature, you are able to jump into entirely different worlds. You meet characters you can relate to, and they become real to you. Sometimes, you like them more than those you meet in real life (sorry, it’s true!)

That’s one of the most precious things about being an author: you create characters who become timeless. With the help of female characters like Elizabeth Bennet, Jo March, Nancy Drew, Jane Eyre, Sara Crewe, Hermione Granger, Anna Karenina, Portia, Katniss Everdeen, Offred, and so many others, I have role models I can look to for strength and courage. I take what I learn from their stories and mold it into my own life, hoping to carry the same levelheadedness and grace that some of these characters exhibit through hard times. Because of their timelessness, so many other individuals get to read their stories and learn more about themselves through these characters. As an author, you have the power of immortality with the characters, and worlds, that you create.

In my life, I plan to continue to read and write. It’s what keeps me sane; it’s what makes me feel whole. My one goal in life is to leave an imprint somehow. I want to help people through a hard time. I want to be that same escape that I reach for when I need it most.   Even if it’s one person, I want to make a difference.

I am excited to continue my journey in writing. I am hopeful for the future and know that my dreams to become a writer will become a reality soon. In my eyes, I already am a writer. My plan in the next few blog posts to come (I have been very busy with work/wedding planning) I will be posting some book reviews on a few books I’ve been reading in the last three months. Exciting stuff to come.

Your turn: What are your hobbies/interests? Why do you continue to do them? I’m interested to learn your stories.