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.