A Reflection on Comfort

A Reflection on Comfort

Winter is coming. A hallowed house motto signaling a switch of seasons. Bearing down with it a demonic force. Leaving countless lives in peril. Frozen in fear of what lies ahead.

For Southern Californians, winter is full of danger too—but in much less menacing manners. Some will speak of its dangerously fun opportunities, such as the chance to skate on thin ice.

While an undergraduate at UCLA, I, along with mis amigos, bused to Downtown Santa Monica. Greeting the smiles of everyone around me, an ice rink shone bright in the night exuding delight. Family and friends glided under fluorescent holiday lights, which, hanging in thin air, appeared like a finely woven spider web.

I wince. It’s a festival trap and I’m easy prey. With no ice skating experience—and a general lack of coordination—I lace up amid:

“How many laps before we race?”

“Hopefully I’m not rusty after two months off.”

And my personal favorite

“The puffy jacket kid! He’s got it! He’s finally u…down again”

Gulping, I finish with a quadruple knot. Though the laces are long, I’m wearing low socks. Poor choice. The heavy boots dig into my ankles. I conjure this pain to excuse myself from the whole shebang but before I can fully plead my case, social pressure inches me towards the ice. And within seconds, after they’ve joined the clockwise circle of laughter, I’m flat on my face. Or was it my ass?

Doesn’t matter. Throughout the evening, I alternated between the two. Puffy jacket kid, I feel your pain.

However, the night proves not a total loss. With the help of a very patient girlfriend, I manage to stand and “skate” for a few laps by the end of the night without falling. I’m unable to keep up with the zooming hordes of children. My blades smash against ice with such force Apolo Ohno, the god of all things speed skating, rolls his eyes from an ice rink from up above.

Mulling the experience over Thai food—one temperature extreme to another—I look around at everyone’s water glass. They’re full and have been since the start of dinner. Me? I’m four deep and signaling the waiter for another. This ridiculously spicy food is too much for me to handle. It’s uncomfortable. Yet, everyone else enjoys it. They’re smiling like they did on the ice rink.

Then, it hits me. I shovel the rest of my meal down. Knowing I’ll never opt for Thai food. Never ice skate—unless there’s another very patient girlfriend in the mix. And I’m happy I’ve tried both to come to this understanding.

Discomfort creates opportunities for growth and learning. I learned how to ice skate. I experienced the spicy nature of Thai food. I learned that I disliked both. And that’s entirely fine. But it’s not a reason to avoid discomfort entirely. It’s a necessary part of life and something that can be viewed within the frame of comfort.

The opportunity for my friends to ice skate and eat Thai food was a chance for comfort. My friend’s worry of being rusty after two months off illustrates a chance to get uncomfortable within a larger frame of something that is largely comfortable.

Seeking discomfort within comfort. It’s an odd thought but something oddly, well, comforting. It’s something I need to aim for more within my life. Pushing limits, getting uncomfortable within a comfortable activity. I’ll focus seeking discomfort within running and writing. Both are activities I thoroughly enjoy. Both are things I want to excel in throughout life. Therefore, I need to be comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable within these pursuits. For it’s only through discomfort that growth and learning transpire.

And what did winter have to do with any of this? Besides giving me the fun chance to segue from the fictional and heavy threat of white-walkers within Game of Thrones to the mundane and trivial discomforts of ice skating in Santa Monica, winter too is a necessary discomfort within the larger comfort of a consistently temperate Southern California. Just my weird (now very sleepy) mind at work.

A Reflection on Accountability

A Reflection on Accountability

Finishing my first and last beer of the night, I place a brown bottle at my feet. Surrounded by friends who I will not see for quite some time, I happily chat on the balcony of an apartment I’m moving out of tomorrow. It’s a surprisingly cool night in LA. Southern Californians have suffered over the past few weeks with temperatures in the 80s and 90s. Rest of the country, especially those soon to shovel the first snow of winter, please pity us!

Talk of the election, our jobs (or lack thereof) and upcoming concerts mix with music escaping from inside. More friends, and a couple of strangers I’ve never laid eyes on, enter the apartment. A cacophony of high-pitched squeals and deep-voiced approvals drown our conversations and the music for just a moment. Among the new arrivals is my friend Tyler. Excited to catch up with the guy, I leap out of my seat and kick the now empty beer bottle. Instinctively I reach for it and naturally, only assist its path off the balcony. Echoes of shattering glass silence the balcony once again. I brush it and my friends’ jeers of “party foul” off as I take my leave.

Weaving through the now crowded kickback-turned party, I find Tyler and begin discussing life. Within my LA group of friends, there are only a few I consider wonderful conversationalists. The ability to listen intently, provide meaningful and specific feedback and the willingness to do so on a consistent basis are rare traits for an individual to embody all at once. Tyler is one of them. After we discuss his newest position and its benefits as well as pitfalls, he turns the conversation towards me. I relay excitement at the impending reality of moving home. How my productivity has fallen off the past few months. That it’s been an incredible year filled with adventures and experiences I had never imagined unfolding. And that I need a break from it all.

“Shifting gears,” he smiles. My quizzical expression leads him to recount his time working in Connecticut. Away from family, friends and other distractions that occupy—not in a necessarily bad way—a large portion of our lives. He goes onto describe the experience as challenging and sometimes lonely—however, ultimately rewarding. By and for himself, he made accountability a core value intrinsic to his life. Since then, it has paid off with steady and enjoyable work as well as a newfound perspective on the importance of balancing professional responsibilities and social pleasures. The parallels between his experience and my near future excite me.

I thank him for sharing his story and the insight I’ve gained from it. We split into different conversations and carry on until saying goodbyes at the wee hours of the morning. Crashing, I feel light and optimistic about the move. It’s an opportunity to distance myself from unneeded distractions and a chance to zero in on important future needs and wants. Whereas I’ve spent the last few months aloof socializing and having fun with no clear path for my next step in life, the upcoming months will prove the exact opposite. It’s recognizing and being thankful for the fun, growth and lessons learned of the near past and then “shifting gears” by accepting accountability for what lies ahead.

Personal Accountability

One benefit in accepting personal accountability is an increase in personal productivity. For most of my life, I’ve successfully accomplished tasks and goals through understanding the importance of deadlines. However, I realize without some form of structure providing such deadlines (school assignments, project dates, races) I falter in doing work. Thus, after much resistance but knowing its vital importance, I sat down and created a list of personal items (both needs and wants) with dates by which they need to be accomplished or met.

You know when an interviewer asks that abstract and haunting question, “Where do you see yourself in [x] amount of years?” I’ve always hated that probe into my personal and professional life yet finally believe I have some semblance of an answer. Not only for a year down the road but also for the end of the week. I’ve found by breaking down each month into weeks, accomplishing tasks and/or meeting goals becomes infinitely more tangible. When something is within sight, it becomes real. It then emits a needed pressure which compels me to action and thus to do work.

Finishing a task and/or meeting a goal by a deadline warrants checking it off the list. This creates momentum and a high that creates enthusiasm for another item on the list. Lists will act as my means of personal accountability moving forward so that I’m happy with my level of personal productivity. However, it never hurts to have some help along the way.

Friendly Accountability

Remember that beer bottle that shattered both glass and conversation from the balcony? Well, here it is in its fractured glory!

A Reflection on Accountability

The mess I dismissed hours before.

I wish I could say I took that picture and cleaned it up by own volition. That would be a lie. A good friend of mine, Sagar, snapped the picture and sent it my way upon leaving my apartment. His friendly reminder of my accident that night gently pushed me out of bed to clean up my mess. In this case, Sagar’s picture spurred me to action in a situation I should have addressed earlier or may not have addressed at all. He held me accountable and for that I’m grateful.

Having someone to hold me accountable like Sagar did that morning was lucky and convenient. I’d suggest eliminating these two variables from the equation entirely. Rather, look for an accountability partner. Someone to hold you accountable through the good and bad times.

Figure out qualities you’d like today in an accountability partner and start tackling your personal items with some friendly help!