Over the past few weeks, I have found myself settling into a routine. Lectures. Seminars. Reading. Cooking. Socialising. Sleeping. All in all, I’ve been very… comfortable. Now, most people would say this is a good thing. We’re six weeks into term and I’m feeling right at home. However, almost every student can tell you that routines can very quickly put you into a ‘funk’. UrbanDictionary (a very reliable source, of course) defines a ‘funk’ as "a state of undesirable emotions or feeling out-of-sorts". This is exactly how I felt. Everyday felt like I was running on a treadmill of predictability. So, I challenged myself. Over Week 6 (the famous reading week), I decided to try and step out of my comfort zone as much as possible. Let’s see if I succeeded.
Disclaimer: all of these ‘challenges’ are personal to me, for some people these may seem like everyday activities and for some they may seem daunting – I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, but always be conscious of others.
Challenge 1: Talking to Strangers
Whilst I didn’t exactly prepare and perform an entire TedX talk, I did try my best to dabble in the art of public speaking. I’m not very confident at speaking to people I don’t know; I’m that girl who puts off making an appointment for months because the thought of making that phone call is scary. However, as part of my comfort zone challenge, I signed up for a ‘Survey Assistant’ role via Unitemps. For 3 days, I worked at various places on campus to complete finance surveys. The position meant I had to go up to every single student or member of staff who purchased something from an establishment and start up a conversation with them. To begin with, it was terrifying. I suddenly felt bad for every single surveying person I had ignored in the past. After about 30 minutes of feeling uncomfortable but forcing myself to interact with each and every person, the fear just went away. All of a sudden, I was confident enough to not only ask the questions as per the survey, but I also found myself complimenting a girl’s hair and another guy’s t-shirt. I found it crazy that by spontaneously signing myself up for this role and forcing myself to go through with it, I had actually improved my own skills in communication and confidence. Shortly after this, I made the scary phone call and booked my appointment. Challenge completed.
Challenge 2: Eating Out Alone
Okay this second challenge is not exactly scary but it can sometimes be uncomfortable. I was in Cardiff during reading week with my boyfriend, but I spent some of the day by myself as he was in lectures. So I took this opportunity to go out, sit down, and treat myself to breakfast. It was a very small limited breakfast (not very many vegan options in the cafe), but a breakfast nonetheless. As I was there, I put my phone down (I have a bad habit of using my phone as a safety blanket when I’m out alone) and looked around. There was a couple eating breakfast with their child, a woman out with her elderly mother, and an elderly man out by himself. The man who was also alone looked at me, smiled, and looked down to read his newspaper. I felt strangely content in that moment. Yes, I was alone. Yes, people could look at me and think "wow she has no friends". But, it’s very likely that people weren’t thinking that. It suddenly wasn’t a big deal. Breakfast challenge completed.
Challenge 3: Visiting a Court of Law
For any fellow law students, you’ll notice this is not really part of a challenge but instead an actual requirement for our course. So for some context – in our module ‘Modern English Legal System’, we have to visit a court, sit in on a case hearing, and then write a reflective piece on our visit. Now, while we were advised to do this in our groups, busy schedules means we didn’t get it done together. Instead, I went alone. Now, we have already established that I’m not very good at doing things alone. However, I don’t think I’m the only person who would say walking into a court of law, for the first time, by yourself can be intimidating. Even though I know I am there merely as a spectator, the sheer location can make you feel like you’re on trial. However, I went in and I watched and I listened and… I survived. I left feeling accomplished and more sure than ever that law was the degree for me. Yet another challenge completed.
Challenge 4: Ask for Help
Right, let’s get deep. One of the hardest and most uncomfortable things to do is ask for help. This week, I found myself battling a really painful and tiring throat infection. I was in agony and, for the first time ever, didn’t have my family around me to get me food and drinks and medicine. I got back to campus from Cardiff on Friday evening and I felt so alone. I went to the Coventry Walk-In Centre at night, in an attempt to get some antibiotics, and was turned away and told to come back in two days. I felt so hopeless. So, I asked for help. On Saturday morning, I asked my sister to drive to Coventry, pick me up, and take me home to Milton Keynes for the weekend. We spent the whole weekend drinking lemsips and finally getting antibiotics and going Christmas shopping and binging Netflix shows. It made me feel so much better, and all I had to do was ask for help. While it wasn’t too far outside of my comfort zone, given that she’s my sister, I do recognise that asking for help in any context, for physical or mental reasons, can be very much so out of one’s comfort zone. It’s very easy to feel like a burden. But sometimes we have to realise that we need help and asking for it is less uncomfortable than suffering alone. Final challenge completed.
Okay, so. Week 6 was a weird one – I was in Cardiff, I was ill so my plans for reading week went out the window. But, in a way, it was exactly what I needed. I was off-campus, off-timetable, and managed to get myself out of my ‘funk’. I am now back at uni, refreshed and ready for the last 3 weeks of term. I seriously encourage anybody who finds themselves settling into a routine to try and step out of their comfort zone. An easy way to start is to swap your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – say yes to things you would usually say no to, and finally start saying no to things you never want to do but feel obliged to say yes to. It’ll be uncomfortable, but it’ll be worth it I promise.