I spent the past year living in Taipei, Taiwan. My husband’s job offered us an opportunity to move there for a year for his work. We moved back to the United States a month ago.
Living in Taipei was amazing. It was a year-long experience that taught me so much, both about myself and about my career. It taught me strength, adaptability, and most importantly, being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Placing myself in situations time and time again where I felt nervous, different, ignorant, or unqualified. I’m so grateful, because now I have no fear. Well, scratch that, I do have fear, I just face it differently.
There were many times in Taipei where I walked into a room prepared to look stupid, struggle to communicate, or wriggle my way through an interaction. It’s incredible how much we take for granted the ease of a small chore in our home country - like going to the bank, filling a prescription, or mailing a package. Fortunately, the people of Taipei are so patient, kind, forgiving, and patiently listened to me butchering Mandarin Chinese while trying to order coffee.
The same can be said when coming from a place of privilege. Whether it be race, gender, age, or other socioeconomic differences, one may take their own situation and privilege for granted. Talking about these things is not always easy, nor is it comfortable. I heard Mellody Hobson speak on this topic in 2014, and was inspired. The message that stuck with me most was “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” when talking about race. I believe the same idea applies to any situation where demographic and socioeconomic differences come into play. Moving to Taipei brought her message home for me. I’ve continued to think about how it applies to other aspects of my life.
I know how to accept that I may not know exactly what is going on. I may not fully understand the experiences of another person. I may not know the best way to navigate situations I’m facing. Whether it’s discussing demographic and socioeconomic differences in my community, attempting to go into a restaurant and order from a menu written in a language I can’t read, or stepping in front of a room full of people and give a big presentation, I have come to embrace discomfort.
Because it means I’m growing. Learning. Bettering myself, and hopefully others.
So let’s all get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Let’s all put ourselves out there. Learn something new. Do something that scares you.
Yes, you might fail. But you also might not. And I promise, you will become a better person in the process. I know I did.