I remember freshman year of college, after a particularly rough week I was crying to my freshman year roommate, Madeline, saying how I wasn’t sure if I made the right choice moving from Deerfield to a city out of state. I was so stressed and homesick and uncomfortable. I remember so well, because it’s stuck with me ever since, her responding with “you didn’t leave Deerfield, Wisconsin to come to the Twin Cities to be comfortable.” Moving to the Twin Cities ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made for myself. I love the Cities. I love the people. I love the U. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And this moment sparked all of these other brave decisions that I made later. 

I felt that same feeling of distress and uncertainty when leaving for my first trip out of the United States, a weeklong trip to Iceland freshman year of college. I felt it again when leaving for my semester in London. And even that same feeling of homesickness and regret after arriving. Again – some of the best decisions I could have made for myself.

And I felt it again in leaving London for this trip around Europe. 

I know that people always say to go out of your comfort zone, but I don’t think we always fully understand how uncomfortable it can actually feel. Sometimes it’s actually SO uncomfortable, that it feels really wrong. It feels dangerous or unsafe. We don’t only want to revert to what’s comfortable, but we feel like we need to if we want to protect ourselves. I was almost set that I should transfer from Minnesota to UW Madison. And I remember just days ago telling my mom that I was ready to book a flight home to skip out on this whole trip. But both times I had someone remind me why I made that decision in the first place. Madeline reminded me why I decided to go to the Twin Cities. And (if you read my last post, you’ll know that) Erin reminded me why I decided to do an 18-day trip around Europe after my study abroad program. And here I am writing about it on a regional train in the middle of the Netherlands on another solo trip, this time to Berlin. 

All of these decisions – going to college out of state, traveling out of the country for the first time, doing a semester abroad in London, traveling around Europe – I didn’t decide to do any of them to be comfortable. I did all of them because, even if I couldn’t see it or feel it when I was really in the beginning and middle of them, I knew that I would grow. I knew that I’d be challenged. I knew that I’d be empowered. I knew that I’d be independent. I knew I was being brave. However, I didn’t really think about the struggle these adventures would include.

I always thought that bravery was something that people were born with. I remember when I traveled to Iceland, I thought that maybe I just wasn’t adventurous enough. I always wanted to be this independent, cool, adventurous person, but I just inherently wasn’t. But, honestly? That’s bullshit. I think that bravery is something that is learned through practice. Don’t believe me? Watch or read anything by Brené Brown. Read “Brave, Not Perfect” by Reshma Saujani. I’ve been practicing and there’s still a lot more growth to do. But, if I can do it, I firmly believe that anybody can. It’s really messy. And it’s really uncomfortable. We didn’t make these brave choices to be comfortable. And I think that’s how you know you’re doing something right.