The Dreaded Comfort Zone

I’ve figured out so much and yet I have never been more confused in my life.  That’s to say an explanation of who I am and the troubles I encounter came to me the other day while driving, but ever since that moment of clarity, I have been lost.  I was cruising along, on my way home from the gym and I started thinking of ways to express my feelings aside from simply writing messages to people and hoping for positive results.  In the past, one of my methods of expression was to write short stories.  For a while I even held onto the notion that someday I could take my short stories and weave them into a complete novel.

*A few years back, in a fit of inspiration, I wrote about 200 pages of crap and called it a novel.  It was quite awful, to say the least, but ironically enough, Sara is one of two people on the planet aside from myself in possession of a copy.  I doubt I’ll ever get it back.*

I haven’t written much of anything since I was humbled by that experience.  While the criticism was certainly warranted, it hurt my pride enough that I stopped writing for a long enough time that I am hesitant to try my hand at it again.  I did consider writing at least one short story entirely in Spanish, but that has yet to get beyond a few paragraphs.  In any case, while attempting to uncover a method to win Sara’s heart, I once again thought of writing a story.  The problem I came to see, not only with that particular idea, but with the bulk of my stories, is that I can’t see beyond myself in a way to write outside what we all call The Comfort Zone.  It sounds a little silly, but when I apply that idea to just about everything in my life, it not only offers an explanation to who I am, but also why I am.  I want to offer some examples and see if it all starts to click.

Beginning with my short stories, one of the biggest criticisms is that there simply is no conflict.  I can create characters, and I can offer fairly strong interaction between those characters, but when it comes to the basic story there’s nothing to be resolved, and here’s why.  I don’t like to write things that take me beyond where I am comfortable.  Stories, short stories in particular, need to have a definitive conflict that must be resolved by the end of the story, but I am afraid to go anywhere in my stories I would not go in real life.  How do I explain this?  I won’t involve topics that I would struggle talking about in my own life.  Homosexuality, sex in general, drug use, abuse, both physical and mental, racial themes; all of these topics are ones I avoid or gloss over because they make me uncomfortable.  The themes themselves don’t bother me, but the idea of trying to put myself in that position so that I could write about it frightens me.  I know very little about what it is like to be a minority, so I would fear being called a racist if I attempted to write from the point of view of a black man for example.  I am not gay, so I would not want readers to infer that I was if I were to write from that stand point.  Of course this is a ridiculous notion, as the idea of being a fiction writer is that I can create through my imagination this world that does not necessarily have anything to do with who I really am as a person, but again, slipping beyond the persona that everyone knows me as makes it difficult to create any kind of conflict among the characters as I won’t touch subjects that don’t directly mirror the things going on in my life at the time in which I am writing.  In college, I wrote about college students.  My novel featured a fast food manager.  Anything I would attempt to write these days would certainly encompass being a thirty year old single guy living on his own in a small suburban town.  I almost always write from the first person so I doubt I could find myself writing from the perspective of an eight year old boy or a ninety year old woman.  Now, of course, writing from my perspective, I don’t ever want to deal with the bad stuff or the uncomfortable topics.  I could never be the parent who has to talk to his kid about sex.  Obviously, this doesn’t make for good writing.  I realized this on my trip the other day, but I also realized how it effects other aspects of my life as well.

A while back, I told my friends that I couldn’t watch parts of movies where the critical moments were taking place.  For example, if I were watching some romantic comedy and I knew a fight between the guy and the girl was coming up, I would turn the movie off.  One of my favorite movies is Good Will Hunting and I have seen it several times, but when it comes time for Will to break up with Scarlett, even though I know they end up together in the end, I turn it off.  Just the other day, I was watching The Crow, another favorite of mine, but when it reached the part in which he was no longer invulnerable, once again, I turned it off.  My friends think this is ridiculous, and it is, but I can’t stand seeing those awkward moments that lead to the culmination of the movies. In other words, I can’t go outside my comfort zone to watch things that make me squirm a bit.

I’ve had hobbies over the years, and I’ve written about them extensively, so I won’t go through them all again, but basically if I look back over the years and ask myself why I never made it further with some of these hobbies, the very obvious answer is that I was never able to go that one more step.  I never quite got good enough at guitar, I never could go all the way with basketball, and even with Spanish, I still find myself struggling even after years of practice.  I don’t travel, I don’t try new foods, I don’t start new jobs.  I find my niche and I stay there, just slightly above average, but not willing to go one step further and risk defeat/failure/rejection.  That is why this whole thing with Sara has bothered me so much.  It’s not that I am so torn that she won’t talk to me, but that for the first time I have tried to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, tried to put myself in a position to be hurt just to show her she means that much, but even after risking all that, she still won’t answer me.

Sure, a more level headed person would say, “The hell with her,” and move on, but I know there is more to her than that and I just want her to let me in.  Just this afternoon, she posted a link to a page explaining introverts.  While it could easily be seen as a description of my own personality, I think she feels very much the same about her own personality.  To be fair, I think we are both two fucked up souls destined to never be together.  I was just about ready to let it all go and give up on her when I read the last part of the description which said, “Remember, don’t take silence as an insult, it isn’t.”  I know she didn’t write that and I know thousands of people read that, but I couldn’t help but think it was someone’s way of showing me her lack of response is not meant to hurt my feelings (even though it does.)

It’s getting later in the afternoon now and I promised myself I would get back to doing the things I have been meaning to do for so long now.  I want to get back to reading and writing, both in English and in Spanish, I want to practice actually speaking Spanish, not just reading it, and I want to focus on doing what it takes to make me happy.  I won’t let Sara slip out of my thoughts completely as she has been there too long already for that to happen, but I fear I may need to let her slide to the back like I had done in the years I was too afraid to tell her how I felt.  I don’t know if she ever even thinks of all of this in the way I do.  Somehow I doubt it, but still I hold onto the hope that maybe she is thinking about the possibility of at the very least letting me take her out for a drink sometime.  I would hate for her to be lonely only because she is to uncomfortable to let me into her world.  I wish I could show her that my world isn’t all that different from hers, but right now, I just have to wait.  I guess we’ll see what happens.

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~ by James on November 11, 2013.

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