Sitting outside of the comfort zone

Hadeel Eltayeb, Staff Writer

Comfort zone. It’s a phrase that we throw around a lot. Whether it means skydiving off into Eastern Australia, or simply asking for an extra fork at a restaurant, we’re all encouraged to do one thing with it: step out.

Speaking for myself, this sounds very daunting. So when I cluelessly signed up to try something new for a week, I never imagined that it meant I’d have to suffer through stilted conversations and side-eye from people trying to figure out why I, some random kid in an obnoxiously bright red raincoat, had decided to sit with them at lunch.

The first day yielded alarmingly successful results. I went with the safe choice: a group where I knew roughly two people, but was a complete stranger to the rest. We talked about neutral things like peer group, classes, and teachers. While most didn’t outright ignore my presence, predictably, some did. I shrugged it off. It could be worse, I told myself. At one o’clock, as if on cue, everyone got up, threw their trash away, and I was left thinking that people were better than I actually thought they were.

Come Wednesday, things got worse. I picked a large group, which meant I was also getting much more comfortable with this whole experiment. One by one, I was greeted with confused looks out of the corners of eyes, and despite my attempts to start any kind of conversation, the feeling I got sitting there was akin to raising my hand in class and having the teacher acknowledge that it was raised, but never call on me anyway. It was, to say the least, incredibly discouraging. But for the sake of this article, I soldiered on.

The next two groups I tried were the most surprising. First, I sat with maybe five or six people, most of whom I’d never spoken to. As before, while some ignored me, and others gave me some serious side-eye, the rest were not so bad. Maybe I’d gotten too used to expecting the worst of people. I definitely wasn’t thinking about how much I’d rather get my hand caught in a revolving door.

On the last day, I broke an unspoken rule. I sat down with the English teachers. I wondered if they routinely discussed ridiculous quiz answers that they’d read, or did crossword puzzles for fun. Apparently, they did neither. They were, surprisingly enough, normal people. They were also, incidentally, the most welcoming of everyone I’d eaten with. I suppose dealing with annoying kids is kind-of in the job description. Nevertheless, it was 15 minutes well spent.

All in all, while I can’t say I totally enjoyed this Try-It, it was interesting to push myself to do something I’d never otherwise do. So many people, myself included, get so caught up in adhering to the status quo that we never really consider the merits of stepping out of our comfort zones. But, do not take me too seriously, as I definitely won’t be doing any of that again anytime soon.