How Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone Helped Me Find My True Self
I used to be the kind of person who measured potential risk and outcome in literally everything I did, from buying groceries to getting into relationships. Little did I know that those tendencies deprived me of awesome experiences and prevented me from meeting some wildly interesting people. I never understood the phrase “change is continuous” until I flew 2000 kilometers from my humble hometown in Bosnia to study and live in Latvia for five months—five months that completely changed me as a person.
Throughout high school I had serious problems with my body image, which later escalated to a full-blown psychological disorder. I overcame the illness, but scars remained deeply rooted in my personality, inhibiting me from major life changes. I learned how to live with my disorder, but pervasive thoughts and behavioral patterns prevented me from relaxing and exploring myself. In Latvia, I had the opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be. I chose to discover things on my own time, in my own way. Suddenly being in a completely different environment, with different people, in a different language, I could be myself without any restraints.
I found out that I am actually a cool person. People would approach me everywhere—on the streets, in the market, at parties—because of my wild hair. Maybe they supposed I was a mad scientist or dirty hippie. I didn't mind. I also loved speaking English. I found out that it's much easier to express yourself without fear of prejudices when you speak in your non-maternal language.
Saying ''I love you and take care'' didn't sound pathetic. Saying ''I feel sad for that and I don't know how to handle this situation'' didn't sound vulnerable and childish when I confessed it to my best friend from Guatemala. During my exchange studies, I actually found a friend group, with whom I shared everything–from meals to my deepest fears and emotions. Those people embraced me with all of my bugs and insanity. They cherished me for being weird, for my electroshocked hair, my philosophical theories, and my preferences for expected environments.
One day I was sitting in my dorm room the next day I'd be travelling to Russia with people I just met last month. Couchsurfing in the Netherlands, Estonia and Poland, sleeping in the homes of complete strangers and sharing life stories with them became my specialty. Saving money for adventures and giving up on comfort became my guidelines for having a good time. Things I tried, music I heard, people I met, food I ate, and stories I heard swirled up in my life in a never-ending vortex. When I came back to Bosnia, people were shocked at how I'd changed. I am vegan now, and I don't care about cakes or even milk in my coffee. People were surprised that I don't care who is black, who is white, who is gay, and who is rich or poor—they are all the same to me.
People were shocked when they saw me hugging the trees, dancing in the rain and singing “Yellow Submarine” on the bus. But I don't care; it's me. I love myself for who I've become after stepping out of my comfort zone, and I encourage everyone to find themselves in the places where they will be completely lost.
By Amina Hadžiomerović, 21