Living in China made me comfortable with living in a constant state of discomfort.
In Beijing, the air quality was so poor, the simple act of breathing was a daily challenge.
In Sichuan, there’d be dialects, slang and humor that I did not comprehend, which left me fumbling to find sensible responses in conversations. Subway rides made me feel less human and more like canned sardines, and riding my bike was like the Nintendo game Frogger – an endless quest of darting in and out of traffic in order to avoid being squashed. And let’s not forget the interesting cast of characters that made appearances in the most ordinary of places. Walking home from Peking University, I’d casually run into a woman walking her bird. If I needed a handyman, I’d call a guy who could make any instrumental or animal noise with his mouth, and who first put on a show in my living room before fixing my toilet. There was also the family that graciously allowed me to spend Chinese New Year with them in Pingan, sleeping on a kang in the countryside with seven other women.
Needless to say, China is huge, and everywhere I went, I would experience an extraordinary day. And each day, I would be pushed into another situation that I had never encountered before. Life was far from routine. It was an adventure.
Life back in the U.S. is quite the opposite. I am graced to wake up looking at clouds and a blue sky. Traffic in Atlanta is crazy, but for the most part we all accept and follow the general rules of traffic. The characters are intriguing, but more in a professional sense, where I find a person interesting because of their work or travels. Hotels are wonderful. There are comfortable beds, cushy pillows, pools and great breakfast buffets! While I do love the comfort, I still crave the discomfort. We grow as people and develop our strengths when we operate in the “unfamiliar zone”. Therefore, I challenge myself to find discomfort within the comfortable life I now live. Whether that may be taking a Beginner’s Art class or trying to publish a children’s book I recently wrote, the scale of the discomfort is inconsequential. All that matters is that I keep exploring and discovering the unknown. I challenge you to also seek out and welcome the uncomfortable. Paradoxically, it actually begets greater comfort with the wider world around us.
You can contact Alexandra at firstname.lastname@example.org.