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!
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.
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.