I distinctly remember the closet I lived in my freshman year at the University of Washington. Only two steps sufficed to reach any part of my room. I had all my belongings in a two-by-two room, hundreds of miles away from home, and I felt as though it were me against the world. I knew close to nobody.
Feeling so small in a big city brought loneliness and I missed the familiar places and people. There have been too many times where I’ve taken the wrong bus, or worse, the right bus but in the opposite direction. However, this feeling also brought curiosity, and eventually, excitement. There were new people to meet and new places to discover. It was also my first time experiencing four distinct seasons, filled with crunchy fall leaves, snow-covered houses, vivid colors of springtime flowers, and the warmth of the sun while sailing across Union Bay. I learned so many unique things about Seattle. Coffee is a big deal? Costco’s Kirkland brand is an actual city here? Umbrellas are for wimps? I felt like a fish out of water and was ready for what the world was going to throw at me next.
I didn’t mind the lack of sun. Every time someone asked me if I missed it (I grew up in Southern California,) I would say that you only appreciate something when it’s gone. So when the sun eventually comes out, I welcome it with a dumb grin on my face. As the years went by, I’ve made lifelong friends in college through the most unexpected ways and have learned about the culture and lifestyle of a typical Seattleite. Seattle has the best balance between the city life and the outdoorsy life. With new restaurants, quirky coffee shops, or hip breweries popping up all the time in this growing city, there will always be something you haven’t tried. On the flip side, there’s a plethora of mountains and valleys to go hiking over the summer or skiing during the winter. I got stuck in the snow and almost tore my knee when I skied for the first time this past winter. My exploration and risk-taking has allowed me to experience all these things this place could offer. After moving from dorm to dorm, graduating, and now settling down in a duplex with a steady job, it marks year 5 of my time here in Seattle. It has been the longest I’ve ever stayed in one area.
It was only recently when I thought about how my future would look like here in the Pacific Northwest. My long-term goal up to this point was to attend the Physical Therapy program at the University of Washington and develop my career here afterwards. To put those words into numbers, I would have been here 4 years for college, 1 year to work, plus another 3 years for my graduate degree. That sums up to 8 years of living and studying in the same exact area, and I was OK with that. I’ve made this place my home.
However, I’ve grown comfortable with this lifestyle. There’s a list I recycle when people from out of town ask for food or drink recommendations. I have a list of my favorite hikes around the area as well as all of the scenic views of the city. The roads are imprinted in my memory and I have a good sense of where I am at all times (You can catch me on Google maps for no apparent reason when I’m bored). My friends have either left the state or have spread across the city to pursue their own dreams. I had forgotten the thrill of being a complete stranger in an unfamiliar area. I miss meeting new people and exploring foreign places. I miss the feeling of not knowing where I am because the best part of feeling lost is the unfamiliarity and the task at hand to find my way back home.
The more I recognize how comfortable I’ve become, the more I realize my craving for the unknown. I seek adventure and the opportunities to explore places I would have never even dreamed of going. Just how I would have never expected myself to land in Seattle for college, I have the opportunity now to explore yet another city for my graduate studies. That unfamiliarity may challenge me to seek out ways to problem-solve when struck with a difficult situation. Maybe it’ll be an obscure subway station map I have to analyze in order to get home, or something simpler, like where the best Mexican food is.
I challenge you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Do something you have never imagined yourself doing. Be malleable, because in those uncomfortable situations, you will be forced to grow. Test your limits and boundaries because you never know what you’re capable of handling unless you push yourself to the edge. As much as I love Seattle, I can go for a new adventure. Find a place to feel small in, a new home just waiting to be discovered. Don’t settle, because comfort breeds complacency.