How I Was Kicked out of My Comfort Zone – and What I Did Next

The last decade has taught me that your comfort zone can be your worst enemy.

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I’ve always wanted to be writer, but after my graduation, my dream was overshadowed by my long job search journey. I graduated from college at the end of 2008, and started working in January 2009, a decade ago. The world was full of possibilities, but I wasn’t ready. I remember the timid, inexperienced, insecure girl that I was. I spent a lot of time looking for jobs. It was hard to land one because I wasn’t the most confident person during interviews. This cost me many job opportunities, but I kept looking. I was undecided about what I wanted to do, and truthfully, my job search was without purpose. I applied for jobs in teaching, translation, administrative roles, you name it. I spent six months looking for a job to no avail. Finally, I got to a point where I was becoming so impatient and angry at myself. Eventually, an excellent opportunity presented itself.  It was a data entry job at an international company with quite a handsome salary for a fresh graduate – and it was a steady job.

I fear change, and avoid it like the plague. Years went by, and I stayed at that job. I was enjoying the comfort and the stability that it offered. Deep down, I knew I was unfulfilled, and there was a nagging voice inside me that told me that I needed more. My old dream of becoming a writer was fighting for dear life, but I didn’t do anything about it. Back then, quitting my job was the last thing on my mind. So instead, I decided to pursue postgraduate studies. I know I applied because I wanted to feel fulfilled, and ultimately, my postgraduate studies filled a small bit of the missing piece in my heart.

I joined that company in January 2009 and left by the end of 2014, not because it was my choice but because I was laid off due to budget cuts. Now, I say that this was the best thing that happened to me. But if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have left. I enjoyed working in that place. It was a lovely place with great colleagues and excellent managers. They supported my education in every possible way, and I owe the completion of my master’s degree to them. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was where I felt safe, so having to look for new opportunities was scary. I remember I wasn’t just scared – I was terrified and shocked because I didn’t know what the future would bring. Luckily, I found another job, which made leaving my comfort zone less scary. But I remember I cried so much on my last day at work.

I started working as a content developer. It was definitely a more fulfilling job because I am so passionate about writing. Gradually, I figured out that being kicked out of my comfort zone wasn’t a bad thing. The scared little girl inside me was reassured. I started to see the blessing of leaving, and I even began to regret staying for six years without learning anything new. And until now, this is one of my major career regrets.

I no longer waste my time in anything that no longer fulfills me or serves my career goals. I step out of my comfort zone every once in a while whenever required to check what life has in store for me. As someone who stayed too long at a job, I wound up quitting two jobs afterwards because they were no longer adding anything for me. Now, I embrace change, and as I leave my comfort zone, I look with awe and excitement at the opportunities ahead. I’m more focused in my career search. I always look for value. I know that time is precious, so I choose carefully what to do with it.

Looking back, I know I needed the time to bloom, to realize my potential, and to get out of my comfort zone. After leaving that job, I learnt an important life lesson. Don’t let the time invested in a wrong choice dissuade you from correcting your direction. I still cringe at the wasted time, but I tell myself that I wasn’t ready, and being forced out of my comfort zone is what taught me to embrace change. By simply living my worst fears, I learnt that life outside of my comfort zone was not that bad. The experience made me a braver person. I feel that because I survived this, I can survive anything.

As Tolstoy once wrote in War and Peace, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” After dreaming so long of becoming a writer, only last year did I start doing something about it. I started working on my novel. A decade ago, I was in my twenties. Now, I am in my thirties, and I wouldn’t say I’m much wiser, but I know better. I know that sometimes all you need is time. I took a lot of time to realize that staying in my comfort zone was dangerous. It took me a lot longer to realize that you cannot write a novel overnight and that inspiration won’t roam the earth, looking for you and eventually fall on your head. I’m less scared, less impatient, and less insecure. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been so impatient with myself for not getting there faster.  

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