On Finding Comfort in the Possibility of Discomfort

There’s this sort of semi-paralysis that I assume many of us will undergo after college, heck, even high school graduation. The world is filled with path and choices; should I take up further studies or look for a job? Which company or school would be the best “fit” for me. Is the pay sufficient, the conditions ideal? Should I move out or stay with my family? All of these questions, many of which come up not separately but together, begged to be answered immediately.

We see snippets of our friends’ lives on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We see how they are now management trainees in this huge multinational corporation. We see them treating their families with their first paychecks. We see them take spontaneous trips abroad (with their barkadas)! Many of our friends seem to have it together. Many seem to be on a guaranteed road to success. Many  seem to know what they want in this complex thing called life.

Meanwhile, we do not even have to have taken up an economics class or course to eventually understand the concept of opportunity cost. Take it or leave it. One or the other. Now or never. In addition, a significant number of us cannot afford to make as many mistakes as our wealthier friends. They do say that you should “try and try until you succeed,” which is perfectly valid. It’s just that not everyone can afford to learn from their own mistakes, because errors and unfortunate circumstances can undo whatever successes one has already achieved. The wealthy can afford to fail. Sure, closing down a business is unfortunate, hurtful even, especially to one’s ego – nobody wants to see their ventures fail – but many among the rich have other businesses or sources of income to save them. They walk away with new insights from their experiences, and they do not have to worry where their next meal will come from.

All of these choices and the consequences of choosing (or not choosing) have the effect of paralyzing us. We find ourselves wanting to go back to college, to return to the linearity of our grade school, high school, and college days. After all, we didn’t have to worry about the so-called real life. We want to prolong the inevitable where we face that thing called adulthood. We’ve become comfortable in the sixteen or so years we’ve spent in school. That was life as we knew it. Adulthood meant having to set your own rules and make what you will of life, all the while seeing what everyone is doing and being judged for what you decide to do.

The problem is we’ve been too comfortable that we choose to remain in that comfort. Change often comes hand-in-hand with a certain sense of discomfort. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t belong here. Everyone’s much better than I am; why bother? I’m making too many mistakes for my own good. Might as well quit while I’m ahead, right?

For us to grow, we need to accept that discomfort is necessary. Simply lying down and doing nothing despite the presence of other responsibilities is a perfectly valid choice, but we won’t accomplish anything of value. If the inevitable is sure to be inevitable, why not get it done and over with? Life has a tendency to keep piling up issue upon issue and question upon question on us. The more problems we keep postponing to solve, the more difficult they will be to resolve in the future.

Furthermore, the discomfort should never overshadow the happiness and merits of the new task, job, or occupation at hand. I firmly believe that there is something that can be gotten out of everything, no matter how mundane. Working on a difficult task may equip you with skills that will give you an advantage over other people in a work setting, for example. Taking up a notoriously difficult class may make other classes much easier to ace in the future. Taking up an instrument despite months of necessary practice may give you a newfound appreciation of music. That person you did not want to talk to may eventually be your best friend or your significant other. Accepting discomfort as a consequence of change is made much easier and more bearable by learning to appreciate the little blessings and nuances of life.

We all need to be more comfortable with discomfort. The discomfort we feel should push us to constantly strive to become better versions of ourselves. It will not always be easy to choose what is uncomfortable, but we should not be paralyzed by the sheer amount of choices and their consequences. As Fr. Ferriols stated, lundagin mo, beybe! Dive in. Immerse yourself in the beauty, ugliness, happiness, and sadness of life.

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