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Outside of Her Comfort Zone

(You can listen to this piece on S3E2 of the podcast.)

Alexa didn’t typically wander the secret passageways of 14th century castle ruins. The heart of her comfort zone buzzed from within the library stacks of her community college back in southern Arizona. Not a town in central France. For years her mother insisted she “learn more about the world,’ and “try new things.” Alexa would always shrug her off, spending most weeknights picking up extra shifts at the local Chevron gas station. Her mother— at first shocked, then ecstatic— applauded Alexa when she announced her semester abroad in France.

But Alexa wasn’t after some ghost of her mother’s Fulbright days doing scholarly research or her mother’s Peace Corp days digging irrigation systems. No. Alexa rounded up her gas station teller savings and her federal Pell Grant money to fund a study abroad experience in a country where she could barely order café au lait and a croissant without a Frenchman snorting at her accent because she yearned to escape the pain of heartbreak.

Alexa squinted in the darkness until the tour guide illuminated the dark stairwell with a flashlight. She, too, felt like life had left her in the dark after the breakup with Kent, and she was in search of the little bits of light she could find. This time away from the community college’s library stacks where they had shared kisses, and from the quad where they’d first said, “I love you,” and from her home state of Arizona where he remained convinced that they weren’t quite right for each other anymore was her great plan to “get out of her comfort zone” as her mother called it. Alexa thought “forced out” of her comfort zone was the more appropriate expression in her case. So here she was, climbing the stairwell of a secret passageway of a 14th century castle.

After dozens of steps, her tour group finally reached a closed door.

“Here we are,” the guide said. Their guide turned the heavy brass nob and they emerged onto the highest rooftop where the emerald-green, bounteous valley below seemed to chorus in its own natural glory. She stilled. Felt overtaken with awe. With hope. Perhaps her mom had been right. Maybe now in the wake of heartbreak she could appreciate the beauty of life outside her comfort zone.


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