I’m a creature of habit. When I visit new coffee shops, I order the same thing: Iced Lattes. When I visit new cities, I always research them beforehand to become familiar with them. When I meet new people, I’m more comfortable around people my own age who are in my field. But the great, and sometimes intimidating, aspect about this internship is being surrounded by unfamiliarity. Even within my cubicle and my office job, I am constantly challenged to go out of my comfort zone.
Even though I’m half way through this internship, answering phone calls always makes my heart leap. I’m always afraid I won’t be helpful or I’ll fumble over my words or that I’d give them incorrect information. Bracing myself with a breath, I answer the phones with a “State Controller’s Office, how may I help you,” and I really do believe this aspect of the internship is critical to becoming more comfortable outside of my comfort zone. Every call is different, and every caller wants different things from the office. It’s a subtle but great way to think on my feet. One particular caller this week stood out to me because of something she said. After offering her a number that could better assist her, trying my best to be polite, she said “Thank you so much for the great service. When you reach my age, you get used to people not being so kind.” I believe there’s a link between being kind and becoming more comfortable outside of one’s comfort zone. Moments when I lash out or become angry often correlates with moments when I become uncomfortable, when I’m thrust into a situation that’s unfamiliar. Slowly, but surely, I’m learning how to approach uncomfortability differently.
A huge reason why I’m always weary of going out of my comfort zone is my Southeast Asian identity. This might seem odd, but often I’ve found it difficult to relate to greater Asian Pacific Islander American issues being Burmese. When one’s identity is supposed to be a comfort, I always felt the opposite. A particular talk with my supervisor, Thomas, and my fellow intern, Daisy, made me think more about this. Thomas said that “Everyone approaches the same things differently,” and this may seem obvious to some, but it was a revelation of sorts for me. I realized that what may be important to me, what may make me feel like I can’t relate to other Asians, could easily have the opposite effect on other Asians. Daisy said to me this week that “we have to work so much harder,” referencing our statuses as women of color. I believe that this is another part of going out of my comfort zone, acknowledging that my different experiences from other Asians can be a tool rather than a disservice. In addition, I’ve found that finding commonality with people who are different from me, such as Daisy and I relating on the same level because we’re both women of color, is a great way to become more comfortable outside of my comfort zone.
Whether it be taking calls with a large amount of anticipation or finding commonality with people I used to think were incredibly different from me, this week has taught me the virtues of going outside of my comfort zone. For it’s only outside of my concern zone that I can grow the most, and work with other people towards the same goals.