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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Out of My Comfort Zone: A Life-Changing Decision

If you are here looking for all of my Back-to-School Celebration giveaways, check them out in the sidebar!
I couldn't resist one of Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop prompts this week, as I was already thinking about how I got my first teaching job and it went right along with this prompt:

3.) Stepping outside the box (describe a time when you went way out of your comfort zone)

Somehow, even though I'd grown up in Pittsburgh, I was a beach girl. I'd dreamed of living on the beach from the very first time I laid eyes on the ocean. I had wanted to go to college on the beach, but my mother shot those dreams down and had me convinced that it was not something that my family could afford. And so, I went to college 50 miles from home.

I did end up loving my college, but it wasn't much of a stretch for me. For my first semester, I roomed with a girl that I went to high school with. For every year after that, I always knew my roommate, had my friends. I knew everyone on campus- if not exactly by name, at least to recognize when I saw  them. I never really felt alone or felt like I needed to find myself. I always had some sort of support system of friends around- and my family was only about an hour away if I really needed them.

But, then, I graduated from college. And, I was faced with a choice.

I had my teaching degree.  But, it was almost impossible to find a teaching position near my hometown. Teachers tended to get those jobs and then stay there until they died. I was starting to get depressed, thinking that I would be living in my parents' house, subbing and doing something really soul-killing, like working at Walmart...there wasn't even a Target around to make me feel better about my first job post-grad. Red is so much more flattering on me than navy blue. I look really drab in navy blue.

One Thursday in July, my phone rang...with an offer for a teaching position in some tiny little town in North Carolina that I'd never heard of, yet had somehow applied for in my application frenzy. They wanted me to come interview for a position with them. Oh, and start teacher work days in about two weeks if the interview went well.

I went down there to visit the next day. Flew into the tiniest airport I've ever seen- before or since. And it was in the middle of nowhere.  Drove an hour to get to the school where I would be teaching if I accepted this job.  The interview was a joke- the VP asked me one question and then took me on a tour of the school, trying to sell me on it.

After that, I drove around the area. Ten minutes to the beach. Sat in the sand and looked out at the ocean, wondering what I should do.

Being practical, I went to a local realtor and found a place that I could rent that was 3 miles from the school and was fully furnished. 

It was Friday. I had until Monday to call the school and the realtor and tell them my decision. The position and the condo were being held for me until then.

I flew back home that night and tried to figure out what to do.

Could I really move somewhere 600+ miles from home? To a place where I knew absolutely no one? To a place where I had only spent a few hours? This was way out of my comfort zone.

And then I thought, hmmm...to a place where no one knows me. No one has any preconceived ideas of who I am...so I could just be myself. 

And I could actually teach, instead of just subbing.

And no one had to wear pantyhose. Laugh at this if you will, but you couldn't be caught without hose even if you were wearing pants where I did my student teaching. But, the VP who had "interviewed" me had on FLIP FLOPS.

And the ocean was right there.

What an amazing experience it would be.

I did make a last ditch effort to stay in the 'burgh. Bright and early Monday morning, I called the superintendent of a district I had interviewed with there. It was an amazing interview and he had told me to call him before I accepted any other offers. I explained to him what was happening and he informed me that there was ONE position in his district and that it was down to me and one other girl for the job. That he was rooting for me, but the final decision wouldn't be made until the school board meeting in August.

But, school would already be in session in NC when that school board meeting would take place.  And no one had to vote on me there. How differently things were run.

I wished he could have given me an answer right then. My best friend from college got a job right near the school where I would be teaching and we were hoping to be roommates. It all would have fit so nicely.  So easy.  Live about a half hour from my family, with my best friend. Know the area, have my friends, easy transition to "being an adult."

I could probably have predicted accurately the major milestones in my life, had I stayed. I would have followed that predictable of a path.

But, I decided that it was better to take the sure thing rather than wait around for the 50/50 shot. So, I called and accepted the offer for the position in NC and informed the realtor that I did want that condo.

And so, the next week, one day after my 22nd birthday, I packed up my pitiful belongings, followed my highlighted map, and made my way to my new home, new job, new life.

My life definitely didn't follow a predictable path after that. It was the best decision I ever made.



Blogger Oka said...

Stepping out of comfort zones is often way more rewarding than we can ever imagine.

August 5, 2010 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It just goes to show that in order to really live, you have to be willing to completely let go. Great story, Shell. :)

August 5, 2010 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

...and you eventually met the husband in NC. Great story, great ending, case closed :)

August 5, 2010 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger MommyLovesStilettos said...

Stepping out of your comfort zone is hard, but that's when I've made the best decisions of my life :)

August 5, 2010 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Kim of Mo Betta said...

I'm a North Carolina girl...our school systems can be lacking, but we have AWESOME beaches :) and I am trying to instill in my children how important it is to step out of that "comfort zone" and try new things...b/c you never know what amazing things you may find if you never try!

August 5, 2010 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Lift Like A Mom said...

I was actually reading with anticipation. That is soooo hard to do and so uncomfortable...at first at least!

And who can argue with the beach?

August 5, 2010 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Two quotes come to mind. The first is Rober Frost " Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." The other is Emerson, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Sometimes the things in life we least expect turn out to be the best decisions.

August 5, 2010 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

Love your story.
It's so funny to look back on our past and really think about how we got where we are today. How many twist & turns we have taken, but we will always end up where we are suppose to be....cause there is no way that I could have found my little corner of the world here in NC on my own!
...and the beach is oh so worth it!!!!

August 5, 2010 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Kmama said...

Sometimes the best decisions are the hardest ones to make.

Sounds like you made the right one!

August 5, 2010 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

I wish I had been brave like you. But if I had chosen to go away, my life would have been totally different.

August 5, 2010 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh see when I was young I wanted OUT of this town.. it was only as I got older and had lived in NJ and Colorado I realized I loved my town.. and came back..

August 5, 2010 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

That's awesome Shell! What an exciting story. Glad things worked out!!

August 5, 2010 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I have to say that I'm a little jealous. I've always dreamed of picking up and starting fresh somewhere. Good for you!

August 5, 2010 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I was in the same boat except in Florida. However I did not take the leap and I stayed in St. Louis and now I'm yet again searching for a teaching job. Makes you wonder where I'd be right now if I had moved down there.

August 5, 2010 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

In some respect, though not all, I know where you're coming from.

NC, and especially Boone, is so outside my box that the first semester here, all I did was fantasize about ways I could leave/transfer/join a commune.

But I've grown to be okay (sort of) with Boone and I know to not blame the rest of NC for Boone's many misgivings.

Perhaps I need to move to the coast...

August 5, 2010 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Living the Scream said...

Loved this post! What an adventure that sounds like. I stuck around where I grew up but after being married for 6 years my husband and I moved for him to teach somewhere. Sometimes it is so nice to have a fresh start! We have since moved back but the experience was amazing.

August 5, 2010 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger MommaKiss said...

What a great story! I have many 'just do it' life changing moments...after high school, I took a year off to just grow up. And then I was actually ready for college, didn't go just cuz I was supposed to. After working for a year in a really good job, I realized I wasn't going to get promoted any time in the small town, so I was able to transfer. I went from an office of 85, a tight group of friends and a comfortable condo to The Big City, an office of almost 1000 and knowing no one. Not even my room-mate, we met on the phone. I'd never change a thing ;)

August 5, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger twinkietotmom said...

I loved reading this story. I would totally love to do something like that with my family. I'd love to pack us up and move somewhere new & different and find ourselves. Look where it got you...a hubby & three beautiful children later!

August 5, 2010 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Cristy said...

What a great story! It really hit home: I just graduated from law school a couple months ago and decided less than 2 weeks ago that it wasn't right for me and that I wanted to teach instead! Talk about a BIG change, but I'm already excited about it and if the result is that it brings me closer to a beach and a boss that wears flip flops?? Well that doesn't sound bad AT ALL. ; )

August 5, 2010 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Tylaine said...

That's a great story. I'm glad you made that decision. What a great experience and it sounds like everything turned out the way it was supposed to be!!

August 5, 2010 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Ma What's 4 dinner said...

You are so brave to jump out there and do you thing! That's why I love you girl.

Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner

August 5, 2010 at 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is awesome! It is so amazing how things come full circle. I am so glad you got to live out your beach dream!

August 5, 2010 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger cfoxes33 said...

Great post! Thanks for you help, this AM too!

August 5, 2010 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Oh My Word... if you substitute Upstate NY for PA, and Charlotte for the beach, and well, Dillards for teaching, this is almost my exact story. And yeah, best decision EVER!! So glad you found a comfotable place outside your comfort zone!!

August 5, 2010 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger The Random Blogette said...

Wow! I don't know if I could ever do that. The biggest decision that I made was applying for the job I am in now. I was in a dead end secretarial job and was in danger of losing my house when I decided to apply for this job (which I had no experience in) and they hired me! More money and a better atmosphere = happy Jayme!

August 5, 2010 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Great story! Thanks for sharing it. I probably would have done the same thing too. Oh, and thanks for you help with the Meme!

August 5, 2010 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Wow! That is awesome! I guess sometimes it's a really good thing to step out of your comfort zone.

August 5, 2010 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Farah Jasmine said...

Shell, that's awesome!! I wish I could be near the beach. It seems like it was great to get out of your comfort zone. I totally would have!

August 5, 2010 at 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great, great post Shell! It's interesting to read about how people's lives turn out differently than they planned. For instance, I "plan" to go to grad school for Library Science (and possibly do the joint degree program with LS and English, but haven't made up my mind yet). However, I feel like part of the reason I have made this decision is because everyone in my family keeps asking me if I've decided what I'm going to do with my life and this is the only hope I can give them for now. The truth is, I have no idea, and I'm perfectly happy with letting God take charge with things. I may go to grad school and not want to be a librarian after all. Who knows?

August 5, 2010 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Katina said...

What a Disney Princess they live happliy ever after story!!!! So glad to have you in North Carolina!

August 5, 2010 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Nancy C said...

Here in MD, every other person I meet comes from Pittsburgh. Teachers never, ever, ever let go of their jobs there. It's just crazy.

I would prefer the beach anyway, although there are probably less of those french-fry sandwiches and Steelers fans out there.

August 5, 2010 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

...and look how everything worked out for you!
I'm bad about staying in my comfort zone. Like right now when medically I need to get rid of the cleaning business and find something not so manual labor like....I don't want to though because my business is my comfort zone.

August 5, 2010 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger shortmama said...

That is so cool! There are times that I have wished that I would have moved like I always said I would...got out of the desert heat. But of course if I had then I wouldnt have met my hubs and had the family I do now

August 5, 2010 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

what a great story! It's interesting to look back and think about "what if's", then turn around and look at your life and realize all those "what if's" wouldn't have lead you to where you are today. who you are today.

August 5, 2010 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger TheFitHousewife said...

Wow! Good for you taking that first step out of your comfort zone. I'm not sure I could have done that!

August 5, 2010 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Love your story and how wonderful you were able to step out of yoru comfort zone, not sure I could have done that

August 5, 2010 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Love your story and how wonderful you were able to step out of yoru comfort zone, not sure I could have done that

August 5, 2010 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Sugar Bear said...

Fear is an awesome motivator!! Glad your choice was both brave and wise.

Good for you for putting all you had out there.

August 5, 2010 at 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hooray for taking a chance!

August 5, 2010 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger Debby@Just Breathe said...

Chills and tears. Thank you for sharing this story, I love the choice you made and the strength inside of you to make it.

August 5, 2010 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

Shell, I want to know the rest of the story. Please?? next week?

August 5, 2010 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I love it! Except for the mention of panty hose...that part made me itch! Working and living near the beach were some of my best years...I miss it!!!

August 5, 2010 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger One Photo said...

It is fascinating how some of the biggest decisions in our lives are resolved for us, and even more interesting sometimes to consider well what would life have been like if I had not taken that road. Good to know you very much believe it was the right choice and path.

August 5, 2010 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What a great memory! It sounds like you made the right choice. It must have been great to teach by the beach.

August 5, 2010 at 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a true believer in things happen for a reason. Loved reading this.

August 5, 2010 at 3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you! I could never have done that - so I really admire people who have. Stopped in from Mama Kat's.. :)

August 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger T.J. said...

such an inspiration! The wings you grew at 22- wow!

August 5, 2010 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Babes Mami said...

I live about 1100 miled from home and moved here on a plan for recovery and then I would leave but I loved that no one knew me expect the my parents and siblings and I could reinvent myself. Now every year I debate moving home but never do because I love the life I have carved out here!

You made a great choice! And I'm like 3-4 hours from the beach so you know I'm jealous!!

August 5, 2010 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

This is a great story. And a great leap of faith. Having relocated ourselves, I know what you mean about creating a life on your own, and starting from scratch. It's not predictable, but it's so completely rewarding!

August 5, 2010 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Brandi said...

That is really cool, Shell. I admire people that can jump out there and take a big risk like that. And I SO love the laid back atmosphere of the non-hose-wearing beach communities! What did your parents/friends think... did they try to talk you out of it, or were they supportive?

August 5, 2010 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Holly Diane said...

Great blog, as always! I gave you the versatile blogger award today on my blog! Thanks for your help this week regarding blog designs!

August 5, 2010 at 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story with a very happy ending. I wish I could have been brave enough to leave my hometown, start fresh somewhere new.

August 5, 2010 at 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shell!!! I LOVED this post! Probably because I understand the time and energy it takes to get a teaching job! It can be so frustrating, the waiting around, the board approvals, etc... I love this decision that you made and love that you moved so close to the beach!

August 5, 2010 at 6:16 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Sometimes the best things in life happen when you just get up the courage to step out of your comfort zone. It's something I work at CONSTANTLY!

August 5, 2010 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Melinda said...

Predictable is boring! I'm so glad you took the chance. It's always when I step out of my comfort zone that I find God does amazing things in my life. You are such a good writer. Totally had me sucked in! ;0)

August 5, 2010 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger CeCe Wilson said...

Aren't you glad you chose the road less travelled? I know in my life that kind of jumping out has made all the difference. Thank you for sharing with us today :0)

August 5, 2010 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger Sharon's New Life said...

Thanks for sharing such a great story... I did the same thing (only about 10 years after you did and it changed my life!
I admire you for your courage to make such a big life change so young... looks like it paid off!

August 5, 2010 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger Venassa said...

That's kind of inspiring. I did something similar when it came down to staying in the city where I was comfortable, at a job that I was doing well in, to move to a completely different city and start over. And now here I am working at the job I always wanted. Stepping out of your comfort zone can really be a great thing.

August 5, 2010 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

Good for you! Yay! we have a few of the 'lifer' teachers here and it scares the socks off me.

August 6, 2010 at 12:30 AM  
Blogger AiringMyLaundry said...

That's fantastic.

This year I vowed to step out of my comfort zone more often. I'm glad I did.

August 6, 2010 at 1:06 AM  
Blogger Cyndy Bush said...

I think that is awesome! I admire your courage, I don't know if I could have done that.

August 6, 2010 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger natalee said...

Wow... you are courageous my friend... i love that it was all meant to be...xoxoxo

August 6, 2010 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

That's a great story. I could have never done something like that. I did get to live for a very short time in NC and loved it. Hope to go back someday.

August 6, 2010 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Karen Mortensen said...

Good for you. Glad you were happy with what you did.

August 7, 2010 at 1:10 AM  
Blogger TornadoTwos said...

It's amazing when you can pinpoint a moment in your life and realize the decision you made affected the rest of your life. This was a great story to read, and I admire your courage at such a young age.

August 7, 2010 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

What an awesome story and life experience.

Wise choice girly!

August 7, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you took the job! We live on an island and it's flop flop central here and I wouldn't want it any other way! It's interesting to look back and see how much weight every decision holds.

August 7, 2010 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Everyday Kathy said...

What a great story! Found you today over at Saturday Sampling. although I've visited before!

Glad to be back!

August 7, 2010 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger Karen and Gerard said...

This is very interesting--what a brave decision you made! When I got my teaching degree, I didn't even look for employment outside of my area close to home. Glad it worked out so well and it sounds like a fantastic school to teach at! I like that you don't have to dress up!

Visiting from Saturday Sampling.

August 7, 2010 at 5:35 PM  
Blogger Amy Sullivan said...

About half way through reading this, I found myself hoping you would take the job! Enjoyed the story.

August 7, 2010 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Loved this----had you posted it before, or something about it?

I have been trying to step out of my comfort zone a lot lately. It makes me nervous, but I like it. I'm so glad you took the job, the road less traveled, and went for it. Really enjoyed this post, Shell! And glad you posted it at the Red Dress Blog!

August 8, 2010 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...


August 8, 2010 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

You have got guts, girlfriend!

I honestly could have never done that and while sometimes I think that I've followed a someone predictable path, I find that I'm most comfortable that way. I mean, I'd like to think that I'm not boring, and I know that I couldn't have told you exactly what situation I'd be in right now, but I hate change. I like feeling safe, secure, and *knowing* my next move.

Now I want to know the rest of the story...

August 8, 2010 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger Mrs4444 said...

What a great post, Shell! And what a perfect opportunity! I'm glad you took it, too.

Kyle will be going to college 25 minutes from our house. I have a feeling that he'll be switching after the first year, though; he's anxious to stretch his wings :)

August 12, 2010 at 1:18 AM  
Blogger Frugal Vicki said...

I must admit, I am not great with waiting....so I am glad I get to read all three posts at once!
And good for you for going for it....I didn't take my chance.

September 21, 2010 at 3:15 PM  

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