I have 7 amazing Creative Spirit interviews currently in progress for you. But as we all wait excitedly for them I’ve decided to talk about what it really means to move outside of our comfort zones. Extending the boundaries of our comfort zone will open the doors of creative opportunity!
My husband and I have both lived in the Middle East for 7 years now. 7 years!? I moved to Dubai in 2007 assuming I’d be there for two. Funny how life has a way of working out to be better and more interesting than you can ever expect for yourself!
“Extending the boundaries of our comfort zone will open the doors of creative opportunity!” (Click to Tweet)
I knew many people who thought I was making a bad decision to come out to the Middle East. If you regularly watch any international news or read newspapers about this region, especially news from the USA (and maybe Canada), you hear of death, intense oppression, and general lack of safety. I had a family member ask me after I took the job if I would have to wear a bullet proof vest. That line of questioning hasn’t really changed despite the length of time I’ve been in this region. Family friends asked me if I live on a compound. (To be clear, I don’t know what a bullet proof vest looks like except for movies and compound living only really happens in Saudi Arabia, which is only one country that represents the Middle East).
Living in Dubai I realized why foreigners are often afraid to come to the USA (?!), where we have more guns than people, for example. That notion, whatever you stance on it, is completely scary to people who don’t live by our amendments and constitution; many people ask us Americans overseas if we’ve been mugged. With all of the violence in our own country, it is so interesting and sometimes amusing to hear safety questions about places like Dubai. I know hoards of people in Dubai who leave their doors unlocked. Think about it. It’s a city with millions of people, A CITY!!! We often hear people talk about the “good old days” when we could leave our house doors unlocked. Well, I know lots of people who did in Dubai, for years, without incident (and still do). I only ever felt unsafe twice in the city in my whole 6 years of being in Dubai. But, living in a foreign country is outside of many people’s comfort zones. So, if you haven’t experienced it, and you read the news, how could you not have fear about living somewhere like the Middle East?
While this may seem like a leap for some of you, embracing your creative desires can be a lot like taking that leap to get your first passport, or buying tickets to Italy for your first trip away from your home country. The idea of traveling the world and learning about other cultures has such appeal; cultures worldwide continue to encourage a positive notion of world travelers. The arts are also put on a pedestal of something to strive for and appreciate. But for some reason, for many people, both the notion of world travel and being an artist themselves, is something they put in a box on their mental shelf, in a closet that fills with regrets.
I once got angry that people assumed the worst about this region of the world. They don’t realize the wonderful people I’ve met, of all nationalities and faiths. I took it personally: why weren’t my stories and experience enough evidence that their fears were unfounded? They don’t realize how safe other countries can be, or how welcoming people are from all walks of life. Then it finally hit me. Of course people don’t understand if they haven’t gotten their passport, or taken up a paintbrush. How could they? Experience yields knowledge. My lesson is to be open and answer as many questions I can for those that ask.
“Be open, ask, and answer as many questions as you can.” (Click to Tweet)
Sometimes I want to jump up and down like an angry, stubborn child in hopes I can convince people that stepping outside of our comfort zone is worthwhile. It’s possibly the most rewarding thing a person can do for themselves. I never knew that moving to Dubai I’d exhibit my art, teach students I’m honored to know, meet amazing educators the world over and travel to places like Sri Lanka. I never knew I’d meet my best friend and now husband in a random pub of Dubai, that I’d come to love yoga, and that I’d be living in the country of Oman. And I’m so beyond grateful and excited for all of these things. All it took was a simple yes to a teaching job in Dubai, a city I’d barely heard of when I signed a contract back in 2007.
I never could have imagined my life as it is. But I can tell you, back when I signed that Dubai contract moving to somewhere like Oman would have been seriously outside of my comfort zone. Additionally, traveling to Jordan by myself, going to Sri Lanka and applying to exhibit art in exhibitions were outside of my comfort zone. All of my experiences have changed the boundaries of my comfort zone and continue to do so.
This ever changing boundary is so useful in all aspects of my life, including my creative practice. I’m not saying everyone needs to leave their home country and live in a foreign one. But perhaps it’s time to catch our collective breath and really think about where we’ve been, and where we want to be?! Today that meant going on my first proper hike in Oman. I saw cool graffiti (see featured image). I also swam in a sink hole with little fish that eat the dead skin off your toes. It tickled.
I wasn’t confident about the hiking. In fact, I was a little scared. But guess what? It felt great.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: What is your simple yes? Tell me one thing you can do today to step outside your comfort zone and step into your creative potential? I want to know. Tell me about it in the comments below.
You should go on vacation more often! Over the last month you have created many columns which I read with the greatest interest. I apologize for being so tardy in conveying my expression of gratitude for your educational and worthwhile writings.
Thank you for the photo journey of some of your places of interest. And many thanks for your insights and and observations as to the safety and security of living in Dubai. Your are right most of us in N.A. do think as you suggested, thanks for clarifying.
While I did not venture outside of my comfort zone today, I can recall a few instances in the past. How about moving across the country to take on a much more responsible job? Add a family with four children, the issues of selling and buying a home, change in schools, learning a new job, the spouse trying to get a new job,etc. Yet in reflection now, although it was most uncomfortable eventually the rewards were many.
Oh by the way, what brand of Canadian beer whet your appetite and caused moving out of your comfort zone?
Cheers and thanks,
Hi Bruce. I LOVE the idea of taking more vacation 🙂 It’s proven itself several times over that I work better and generate ideas more easily since I’ve been back. Lots of people have been reinforcing the notion, too! I will be taking that feedback to heart.
I’m so glad you are enjoying Artist Think, this is why I do it! I’ve noticed a change in my writing recently. Something has clicked for me; I’m having a positive moment of growth. It’s a real pleasure to know people are seeing it in my writing.
Moving across the country is definitely something that extends a comfort zone and can feel much like a move to another country. There are sooo many things that happen during a move, as you say, that can push our boundaries of comfort. I’m glad to know your choice brought reward for you and your family. 🙂
As for that Canadian beer, we tried some Granville Island Brewery, among others.
Best wishes Bruce!
Absolutely love this post Carrie! Traveling outside my own country (even though it was 15 and 20 years ago) gave me the biggest awareness of how much aggression and violence is part of our daily culture in N.A. Domestic violence is a huge part of it too – we don’t know the truth of our own statistics. What you share reminds me a bit of following the Out of Eden walk of Paul Salopek.
Another aspect to travel – there are aspects to our personality that may be considered “odd” or unvalued inside our own culture of origin, yet when we travel we may find them completely embraced. That happened to me in Japan with certain parts of my personality. That can lead to a query of personal identity as something separate from the culture in which we swim, and allow us to realize we can choose to applaud different aspects of ourselves regardless of what others think.
As answer to your question: My current small YES on creativity has been enrolling in a year-long eco-art therapy certificate program. Because the focus is on working with Nature and I find Nature to be the best judgment-free zone in existence, suddenly I find myself: 1) buying art supplies for the first time in my life, 2) wanting to drop everything I need to do in order to draw a purple cabbage or fern. Suddenly believing I could be an artist in Nature’s eyes changes everything!
Erin, Thanks so much for reading! I haven’t hear of Paul Salopek, I’ll be sure to research him now and learn a bit more.
You make sure a good point about realizing and understanding our identity and personality and how different cultures can help us see our qualities as unique strengths.
Your program sounds amazing! Bravo! I hope you will share more of your journey as you continue with the program. Nature is so healing for me, and it sounds like you find it a special space for yourself. I LOVE that you want to drop everything to draw – LOVE it. That’s what creative release can do for us. 🙂 You are an artist Erin, absolutely. Thanks so much for sharing.
Great read! Thank you.
I’ve been interested in hearing what it’s like to live in Dubai, as I know of some opportunities there. For no reason though, I have been a bit skeptical — I think it’s a fear of this unbearable, intense heat (I currently live in South Africa – a place ‘known’ for its lack of safety < which is absolute rubbish, because incidents happen in every country and over the last 18 years I have only been a victim to maybe 4/5 petty crimes.
Epic heat though – I'm not sure if I can do it… I have heard that you can go to Dubai and leave with an even paler skin because you spend most of your time indoors with the air conditioning on. (I'm not the biggest fan of air conditioning… :/ ).
Anyway, stretching your comfort zone in order to open doors of creative opportunity – I'm all for that! 😀
So, to answer your question – one thing I (you, all of us) can do today to step outside my (your/our) comfort zone(s) and step into my (your/our) creative potential is to: Dedicate one hour (that you would normally spend looking at social media/watching TV/staring out the window…) to creating (or just starting) a work of art (drawing, painting, collage, a poem, a letter to an imaginary person… whatever).
I have found that daily practice (even if you are making a whole lot of mistakes and end up with something that you don't particularly like) is an essential part of being an artist. Train your imagination to work whenever you want to switch it on, rather than waiting for it to switch itself on and only work when you feel inspired.
You will feel way more creatively satisfied after creating a single, tiny, silly whatever-it-is, than you will if you only read about the things other people are making.
Welcome to Artist Think! Dubai, for many expats, is a love-hate relationship. Personally, I loved living there. I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle the heat and you just adjust. I went for a hike just last weekend in Oman, which I even can’t quite believe. I would have collapsed or needed dehydration salts if I had done that when I first moved to Dubai. There is truly no other place in the world like it, a city being built from the ground up; and with this new city, burgeoning opportunity and a developing identity. It’s a fascinating place, even when it is frustrating, or hot. I had a vitamin D deficiency from avoiding the heat and family back in the US always teases I’m not tan, don’t I live by the ocean and in a desert? You are always in A/C. Even in the winter months most establishments use A/C.
Thanks so much for your tip on making time for creative practice. Sometimes we don’t even realize the time we waste in our day on the internet or watching TV we don’t even enjoy. I completely agree that a daily practice is smart. It doesn’t mean you produce great things everyday, it just means you are doing the work. When work is happening, great things can also happen, too!
Best wishes to you.