Expand your horizons. Exit your comfort zone. Try new things. Visit new places. Meet new people. These are mantras to which I aspire. Many people are too afraid to venture outside things they’ve always done. They go to the same restaurants, then order the same things off the menu. When it comes to music, some of my friends say “Oh, I like all kinds of music” when they really mean they like all kinds of music within a narrow framework, such as 70s “classic” rock. Boring! I like to shake it up once in a while. My dear friend, Bob, who is my best friend from graduate school (not to mention one of the coolest people I know), visited David and me recently. As usual, our conversation turned to our mutual love of music. Bob was a university professor for his entire career and he lived in a small town that didn’t afford many opportunities to see concerts. When he was visiting, he remarked that, although he had gone to lots of concerts while growing up in Texas, he hadn’t seen as many concerts as David and I have seen. This led me to a recitation of some of the many performers David and I have had the pleasure of seeing live, including: B. B. King, Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand, The Rippingtons, Barry Manilow, Tom Jones, Chick Corea, Waylon Jennings, Englebert Humperdink, The Temptations, The Village People, and so on and so on. Bob was astounded that I, a fan of rock and roll music (including today’s groups, such as Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed, and Godsmack), would consider, not to mention attend, concerts that are not within the genre of rock and roll. Bob was incredulous, questioning “Barry Manilow?” to which I remarked, “Yes, and he played 20 minutes worth of jingles he wrote for TV commercials during the show!” The point about experiencing things outside of one’s usual practices is, of course, not limited to music. Never had Lebanese food? Try it! The worst thing that could happen is that you won’t like it; if so, you can always go to your favorite fast food place to satisfy your hunger. Never been to Miami? Come to visit David and me. We will take you to many unforgettable places! How about the Grand Canyon? Let’s go! The world awaits us!
How broad one’s horizons, or comfort zones, are is probably relative. While some people consider Melissa and me to be adventurous in certain respects like music or food, I know, I for one, still draw a line somewhere. I know I have limitations based on foods because of 2 things. One is an allergy issue related to my asthma, but that isn’t a big limiter. The other thing is I can’t handle spicy hot foods. But, I’ve been willing to try new foods, unaware that the spice level was above my comfort zone. The first time I had Sri Lankan food I was overwhelmed. Indian food too – but it is mild by comparison to the little Sri Lankan place in Sydney where I had dinner. It is sometimes challenging to venture out and try a new dish or type of food. I know it is hard for me not to order chicken parmigiana at an Italian restaurant; it’s my baseline choice. But, after trying that at a particular restaurant, venturing out to other menu choices is less risky. I don’t know for sure when I adopted this perspective, but I do know that when I was faced with the somewhat intimidating prospect of going to graduate school halfway around the world, literally, where I knew no one, that I decided to take the leap. I realized that not going would have led to a lifetime of regrets and lost experiences. Those experiences were worth getting out of my comfort zone, though there were times when it was uncomfortable. Throwing (reasonable) caution to the wind often results in mind expanding memorable experiences that are so positive that one can’t imagine not having taken the chance. But, don’t expect me to go bungee jumping!