Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

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Photo credit: Romain Guy

Those feelings of doubt that we all dread. The endless paranoia in our head. A heart of darkness or the weight of carrying the world on our shoulders. These are all universal feelings that are expected with the unknown. Stop. What if I told you that sometimes that pit in your stomach was an indicator that things were going right in the best of ways?

In this rapidly changing, unpredictable, and hyper-competitive world, there are a few principles we can adopt to make ourselves more robust. You are not helpless. You are not alone. Whatever it is you’re feeling and whichever situation you’ve been thrown in – failing a class, feeling hopeless, feeling lost – I’m sure someone else has been in a similar situation. That line in Fight Club rings true especially in our darkest moments. You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.

Now I want you to picture a few moments in your head. Think of some of the most gut-wrenching, life-changing moments you’ve experienced. Were they times when things were going flawlessly? Maybe now that you’re looking back, your 20/20 vision is making things look better than they seem in your memories. Now take a moment to write a few of these moments down. Are you done? Alright, good.

I believe that the worst of times also offer the best of opportunities. It’s when there’s turmoil and fire lighting our asses that we rise to meet the challenge. That’s when communities come together, the unheard become heard, and the unfinished becomes a step closer to done. Think about America’s Presidents. Washington fought in the revolution and banded the states together. Lincoln abolished slavery when the nation was divided. At the end of World War I, Wilson crafted Versailles Treaty’s “Fourteen Points”, including a point on creating a League of Nations to ensure world peace.

So if you’re ever at a turning point where you feel like the whole world is conspiring against you, think again. Maybe you’re about to experience something magical. The magic might not appear today or tomorrow or even a few weeks from now. Maybe you have to re-think your decisions, give up things you once thought were important, or change the way you view the world. Keep pushing forward, and put in the work to grow and improve. I know it’s easier said than done. You’ll get stretched to use abilities you didn’t know you had, you’ll slam against the concrete floor and be expected to get back up, and you’ll be made the butt of a joke. But one day, you might just look back on all of it and be grateful that you went through all those trying experiences. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Because all of that will guide you to where you’ve temporarily arrived at. Where you were meant to be at a moment in time. The sum of all your decisions.

So whatever it is, the obstacle or monster ahead, may just be your great blessing in disguise. We’ve all been there, and we’ll be there again. Should you ask someone out? Should you spend two years getting a masters degree? Should you stay on the challenging, fun, and growing assignment? These are all uncomfortable questions you might have to ask yourself.

And if at times you feel weak, that’s what your support system is for. Your friends, your family, faith or spiritual belief if you have any, and your mentors.

Don’t tread lightly. Don’t wait for the world to come to you. Don’t look back with regrets. What I’m saying is to charge towards the unknown without abandon so that you can become the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.

3 Replies to “Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable”

  1. Hi, Olivia. Boy. This is really great stuff. I think of you as optimism incarnate, so it’s very touching to read that you ‘walk in darkness’ sometimes just like the rest of us do.

    Someone recently asked me to answer one of those “Proust Questionnaire” type deals lately (look it up if you haven’t heard of it, though this list of questions was ‘customized’). To the question “What wisdom would you like to convey to your grandchildren” I answered: “You’re not special. And this is good news.” (I forgot about the fight club line… So much for originality!)

    While I treasure my unique talents and the contribution they can sometimes be to others, the major battle for me of the last 30 years or so has been coming to terms with the fact that I am “just” a human being like everybody else. At first this involved watching in tears as my snowflake melted. But now I see that this opens up aspects of life that the ‘specialness’ I cultivated so carefully shut off. AND… it takes an enormous burden from my shoulders: I no longer have to either be exceptional or despair that my life is meaningless. There’s LOTS of lovely grey in between.

    I’m very grateful that Serena has you for a friend. I don’t know how much she talks about her ‘inner life’ with you, but I do know that you’ve been a real blessing to her, and that you’re an important part of her support system.

    Anyway… My usual tendency at this point would be to revise this for the next three hours (and, boy, would it be awesome after that!), but I’m going to go ahead and send this.

    That said: I would love to send you a copy of the book I published at the beginning of the year. It collects all of my “Artpost” postcard collages and their accompanying haiku. I’m very proud of it, and it definitely falls into the category of “the contribution [my unique talents} can sometimes be to others”. Send me your address, eh?

    Thanks for your thoughtful essay!

    Mr. Sonnenberg (ha ha)

    1. Hi Mr. Sonnenberg! This is the best comment ever! Thank you so much for the genuine, thoughtful comment.

      I agree that seeing the snowflake melt does lift a lot of weight off our shoulders! There’s no longer the need to try to be perfect, to save the world alone, or only focus on work. Grey is a nice color.

      I’m very grateful to have Serena as a friend too, and she definitely is a fundamental part of my support system! She, Priyanka, and Angela have always done a great job to make me feel supported when I try new projects but also they’ve ensured I keep my ego in check. Hahaha.

      That would be cool! I’d appreciate your Artpost collage very much.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I hope you and Mrs. Sonnenberg are well!

  2. Ha! I thought I was sending you a message, not commenting! Oh well, I’d have been more guarded had I known, so I guess this is one of those ‘blessings in disguise’. Thanks again.

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