Comfort zones

I read an article or something yesterday about how Groupon is changing the way people shop, or how we value things, or, hell, I don’t really remember. I was still in a haze from tax day.

But I remember being startled by that because I never use Groupon. I’m not one to frequently step outside my comfort zone. I go to restaurants I’ve gone to before. If my husband and I want to go out for a nice dinner, it’s either the Japanese Steakhouse (we don’t even call it by it’s name) or Bonefish Grill. We buy the same things at the grocery store every week — to the point where my budget obsessed husband sent me an email to tell me that this week’s grocery bill and last week’s were within $0.06 of each other. If I like a brand, I stick with it.

There’s this restaurant in the middle of town called Three B’s. I’ve lived here since May 2005, and I’ve never once gone there. I’ve always wanted to — it looks like one of those truly redneck diners where the letters are falling off the sign but the food is amazing. I mean, there’s a massive light-up pig on the roof, so how can you go wrong?

I’ve never walked inside. I want to. I’ve just never stepped outside that comfort zone. What if it sucked? What if six years of expectation are flushed down the drain in a moment?

For now, I’m sticking with what I know.

But here’s the funny thing: I’m completely accommodating. If someone wants to go somewhere I’ve never been, I’ll go. New restaurant, new food, new pattern, I’m good. When left to my own devices, however, it’s pattern pattern pattern.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot with my writing, because I don’t want to fall into the same rut of always playing it safe. I did that with my first few novels, and when I finally said F it and wrote what I wanted, I landed a book deal.

It’s scary, though, not knowing what you’re going to get, or how it’s going to turn out. Once Mike taunted me about only reading paranormal YA (not true), but I decided, “I’ll show him.” So I went on Amazon and scrolled through the top 100 books that day, and looked for the absolute furthest thing from paranormal YA. I wanted a book that I would NEVER ever pick up on my own. No Jodi Picoult/Jennifer Weiner. No detective novels. No chick lit. No YA.

I ended up with this book with a completely nondescript cover, about three black maids living in the south in the 60’s. When the book arrived, I didn’t even want to read it, but damn it, I’d made a challenge to myself (I’m all about the challenge), and I was going to sit down and read it.

It was amazing. You know what it was? The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Pick it up. You must read it. It’s all about girl power, and sisterhood, and it’s all about a young white writer who secretly tries to find out what’s really going on in the lives of these black maids — like what happens behind the scenes. If you’re looking to step outside your own comfort zone, this book will rock your world.

I was looking to make a point somewhere in here, but I think the baby is eating my brain.

Have you guys successfully stepped outside your comfort zone? What were the results?

5 thoughts on “Comfort zones

  1. We use Groupon all the time b/c we like trying out different ethnic restaurants (not a big fan of the steakhouses or even Italian food, though I suppose that’s technically considered ethnic as well). I’ve always felt I have a pretty small comfort zone, but I do like trying new foods. And I’ll try just about any book if it’s been recommended by someone whose reading taste I respect . . . I just won’t necessary finish it. (And I loved “The Help” but not as much as “The Kitchen House” or “The Book of Night Women”–two others I read around the same time that deal with slavery and women empowerment.)

  2. I’ve traveled to 22 different countries. I’ve eaten everything from camel hoof soup to raw paprika (for breakfast). I’ve worn clothing from more countries than I can even remember. When I was 39, I took a leave of absence from my job and moved to another country for a year to get a master’s degree.
    My problem is when I DON’T get out of my comfort zone. I haven’t even left the country in two years now, and it’s starting to depress me. I feel blah.

    And what’s Groupon? It sounds like it must be group coupon discounts. Is it like those massive coupon books kids sell as fundraisers? I hate those things.

  3. I have a problem with comfort zones as well and I had to really force myself to sign up for a workshop. Knowing people were going to read my work and comment out loud in front of everyone intimidated me, but I’ve forced myself to go every week. I signed up for a second course now because I found it so helpful–unpleasant sometimes, but always helpful.

  4. Bobbie, if I told Mike I wanted to eat at an ethnic restaurant, you should SEE the face he would make. The most “ethnic” cuisine we get around here is Chinese food from the dirty place up the street. It’s kind of a shame because I think I like Thai food.

    And, English Teacher, Groupon confuses me. But basically, it’s this website that sends you a coupon every day for something in your town. Like a massage for half off. You buy the coupon through the site, and once they run out, that it. And I think there’s only one deal a day or something, but I could be wrong about that.

    Lauren, I think workshopping is great! Yay, you for stepping outside that comfort zone! I love those kinds of workshops.

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