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Smell the Coffee: A brave new world

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I am not a fearful person, but neither am I brave. I am tough. I'll give myself that. Maybe even a little bit hardened. But brave? Not so much.

The changes in my life that began last summer were unexpected, but were they entirely unwanted? Hadn't I been sort of longing for a bit of adventure?

No. Actually, I hadn't. I was fairly content with my ordinary life, my predictable routine. I can't say I was happy, but I was trying my damnedest to bloom where I'd been planted. I even had the next 40 or so years pretty much plotted out. Was comfortably familiar with the road I was on.

But somehow, I ended up on a completely different patch of ground. Some of the landmarks stayed the same, but the horizon looks nothing like it did before.

Once upon a time, the Gazette's Doug Imbrogno suggested I try stepping out of my comfort zone every once in a while. He encouraged me to deliberately take on new experiences because those experiences would expand my little world, would give me more to write about than just my parenting and animal tales.

His advice seemed lightly given -- a passing thought shared -- yet it's something I've revisited many times since.

It isn't easy for a routine junkie like me to step outside of her comfort zone, but I've learned I can shove myself out every now and again. And I've been making a point of doing that lately.

For instance, I've always loved motorcycles, but only from afar. I was enchanted by the freedom they represented, the implied rebellion. Still, the idea of traveling that way -- so unprotected -- was simply too scary for me. I'm a wildly accident-prone person as it is. Putting me on a motorcycle seemed too big a temptation for fate.

Granted, in my considerable collection of phobias, there are many fears that are larger, but conquering this particular one seemed fairly simple. Over the course of a few weeks, I'd arranged for a ride on a Honda Gold Wing, another on something called a "crotch rocket," and a few laps around my neighborhood on the best looking Harley I've ever seen.

By forcing myself outside of my comfort zone, I not only have a checkmark on my list of fears to overcome, but I also have a new interest.

And just one small burn scar on my calf from a hot exhaust pipe.

Next up to conquer were guns. Although handguns don't frighten me as much as rifles, they intimidate me something fierce. But all it took was a couple sessions of shooting, and I went from being frightened to being so enamored with the sport that if I had money to burn, I could make it my passion.

It's funny how so many of us complain about monotony and bemoan our routine lives, but it is always within our power to change things up a bit. Instead of letting our fears stop us, I'm starting to think we should use them as a map for what to take on next.

I'm as bad as the next person about indulging myself. If something hurts, I avoid it, even if the something that hurts is good for me. If it's a little uncomfortable or frightening, I want to quickly give up. I'd feel sorry for myself and give myself permission for all sorts of lazy behavior instead of searching out opportunities to be curious and adventurous and try something new.

Not anymore.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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