Comfort Zone

So, this weekend was one of my good friend’s Bachelorette Party. I must admit, I thought when I was rounding the corner to 40, I would be done with weddings, but here I am – 39 and just had my own wedding and now have a friend’s wedding coming up in early September. It’s so weird because when I look at my closest friend’s circle, our life cycles run the full gambit.

I have three of my best girlfriends from college that have 2 to 3 children a piece. One of them has a daughter that is about to turn 13! How the heck did that happen? I remember planning her baby shower and now she’s a teenager? Is it just me or when it comes to your friends, it’s like at some point in time they stopped aging? I think of those three girlfriends, and it doesn’t feel like they are a day over 25. But then you see them post that their first-born is turning 13 and it hits you. They, and you, are no longer 25. You’re older enough where your friends now have teenagers.

But while they have children, I just got married for the first time and have girlfriend of mine in the same boat – in our late 30’s, early 40’s and finally tying the knot. Then I have another very close friend of mine that is divorced and in a newer, yet serious relationship. I have other friends that are maybe closer to divorce or still trying to find that special someone.

When I was younger, I imagined by the time I got to my 40’s not only would I already have a kid but that all my friends I would be in the same or at least similar life stages. I think that’s because when you’re younger you are! You probably meet in school or sports, and you’re grouped with the same age group. You are on the same linear track – Middle School to High School and then College. I know not everyone goes to college and that’s where there starts to be some separation in paths, but you’re doing something after high school.

But as you get older, and the years pass, the path of your peers starts to look much more like a maze than a straight line. Hell, sometimes it reminds me of that scene in the Labyrinth with all the stairs that keep turning upside and changing directions when she’s trying to get to the David Bowie and the baby? Listen if you know, you know. If you don’t – I’m sure you can find it on Netflix of some streaming platform. I was obsessed with that movie, and David Bowie. Those white pants and feathered coat?

See, even at a young age, I was attracted to men that were comfortable in more feminine clothing. Back then it was David Bowie, now it’s Harry Styles. Interesting how some things never really pass.

Anyway, as you get older – your life compared to your peers can be so different. This Bachelorette Party was a great example. There were some married folks, some single women, two engaged and one that doesn’t even believe in monogamy. Yet here we are, within a couple of years of each other, completely different lives but can come together for a common reason and have a great time.

Which is something I’ve appreciated more as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger, I would look to be friends and hang out with people that were like me. Maybe we had the same hobbies, lived in the same neighborhood – whatever. But our commonalities are what brought us together. As I get older, its our differences that make it interesting.

I noticed this when I was picking colleges. I grew up in Schaumburg, Illinois and I could have gone to an Illinois college like a lot of my classmates, but I wanted something different. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be yet -but I knew I wanted to do something in media. And I knew that if I was to do that, I needed to meet people with different backgrounds and get out of my own comfort zone.

So, while my friends went to ISU or U of I, I went to Florida to University of South Florida – although it’s more mid-Florida in Tampa, but I guess the University of Central Florida was already taken and University of Mid-Florida doesn’t have the same ring to it. My first roommate sure brought me out of my comfort zone! Deidra was a loud, boisterous, black Baptist from the South. I’m sure when she saw me as her roommate she was like – oh lord, this white chick. Especially when I was in a sorority and dressing up in sheets to go to a yoga party or something.

Deidra smoked black and mild’s and left her weave (which I learned what that was at that time) on the dresser. My food consisted of mac and cheese and Raman. Her food pantry was filled with sweet tea, pinto beans, and grits. She introduced me to black comedy on BET, which I’m still obsessed with. She also taught me about code switching as what Deidra sounded like when she talked to me vs. when she was on the phone with her friends sounded like two different languages to me.

She also was my first experience with racism firsthand. We were eating at a Ruby Tuesday, and she had finished her meal way before me yet when I was done, he promptly cleared my plate and still left her dirty plate in front of her. Looking back, I don’t know if her goal was necessarily to introduce me to black culture or not – but I’m so thankful she did. It was my first taste of actually experiencing someone else’s’ culture that was significantly different than mine and I was fascinated and thankful for the experience.

It awoke a deep desire for me to travel and experience more cultures. It also made me more accepting of others and less judgmental. I still judge, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t hold that book to it’s cover.

Anytime I get into a situation where maybe I don’t everyone or I know we have different experiences and backgrounds, I get excited. It gets me out of my comfort zone. It challenges me to get to know people and it usually means I’m going to have some interesting conversations maybe I wouldn’t have. And life events like bachelorette parties, weddings, baby showers and what not are those times in your lives where you not only meet people you may never would have – but it’s this unique time that you may be surrounded by differences, but you all have one thing in common.

And having that one thing in common breaks down barriers and opens opportunities for vulnerability that doesn’t exist when you just meet random people out and about. That was the story of my weekend at this Bachelorette Party. Other than bride, I didn’t really know anyone. Maybe I had met them once at the bridal shower, but they were pretty much new to me. But that common connection immediately broke down some walls and allowed for great conversation and a fabulous time.

Other than appreciating this spectrum of differences, there were other points that screamed I was no longer in my late twenties or early thirties throughout the weekend.

First, it was what I packed. Yes, I brought my beach gear and different outfit options, but I also brought my Alka-Seltzer and Imodium. I didn’t get drunk the whole weekend. My 25-year-old self would have been slamming them down, but I didn’t. And I was ok with that! My younger self wouldn’t have been for sure. I woke up around 8am each day and I didn’t go to bed later than 1am. I know what you’re saying – you sound lame. It was a Bachelorette Party, why didn’t you party your ass off?

Well, that’s another way to tell you’re older – you’re responsible. As the Delta Variant continues to spread, we wanted to play it safe. No one is trying to get COVID. We rented an AirBnb and we spent a lot of time on the beach. We had a movie night, and really, we just hung out and talked, shared stories and pictures and laughed. There were some penis straws, but as a group of grown ass women who just went through a pandemic – it was more important to spend time with each other than it was to go to a bar and get drunk.

Getting older sometimes gets a bad rap – and listen, sometimes it deserves it! But there’s also positives. As we get older, our priorities shift and we focus on what’s important. We look forward to opportunities to connect with those that don’t always share our perspective. We are more accepting of our differences and don’t always take ourselves too seriously either. It’s also important as we get older that we don’t lose our sense of curiosity and willingness to try new things. We don’t and will never know everything. Staying open to new experiences, and friendships, is how we continue to make life interesting. When was the last time you got out of your comfort zone? Maybe try it – you may realize you needed it.

Until next time!

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