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Get Out!!

Of Your Comfort Zone!!

By Karen Leonard


Change is hard!! Trying new or unfamiliar things can really get a person’s anxiety going; imagine having a disorder, such as Panic Attack Disorder (PAD), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Suppose you have suffered from any of these. In that case, you know, it feels like your whole world has stopped short; you have been placed in an uncomfortable bubble that makes absolutely NO sense, and people look at you differently, think about you differently, and some even question if these are real…Trust me, they are, Very Real!!

I have spent most of my life, and yes, I’m an older student, returning to college after (rather not say) years, being out in the “real” world, and raising my daughter, and now, I have returned to Cowley County College to finish a Creative Writing AA Degree.

Talk about getting out of your comfort zone; my first semester was Spring 2023, with 8-week accelerated courses, Interpersonal Communications, and Intro to Lit. I had a couple of other classes that I was enrolled in, but I realized a few things very quickly, and thankfully, my advisor at the time and Instructor, Marlys Cervantes, was excellent in helping me. I realized that to keep all the classes was too much. So, I dropped the others and completed those two courses with excellent grades!

Not only did I have to get out of my comfort zone, but I also had to return to school, catch up with the drastic differences in technology and classes online, and get back into a “student mode,” but these were accelerated. There was much curriculum to cover (a typical semester’s worth) in only eight weeks.

Thankfully, everyone I have interacted with through Cowley has been fantastic and tremendously supportive. The Tiger Learning Center and the tutors there were amazing. My Instructors were great, and meeting my peers, even if it was only via online discussion boards. It was a massive change for me, and I have PAD and PTSD (and there are a few others, but you get the point 😊)!

While I loved my classes, learning, and writing, my disorders were triggered left and right! Constantly! But then, I finished those courses and felt like I was unstoppable. Last semester, I took a full course load because I’m catching up. It was more than the 12 credit hours (15 to be exact), but it was phenomenal! Each of my Instructors was incredibly helpful and understanding, and I felt like a real, unlabeled, mentally happy person, and my poetry and fictional writing just flowed out unchecked. Was all of it great? No! But I was doing it!

I was socializing online and by telephone, but I was getting back out there, and I loved it!! Was I still anxious? Yes! Do I still feel anxious? Yes! I am doing all the necessary things, such as therapy, medication, and coping skills, but unfortunately, my lot in life is always going to have some form of anxiety. That stinks! But guess what? Life isn’t perfect or always accessible. Get out there! If something stops you, look in the mirror; that person there is the biggest hurdle standing in front of you and what you want to do…tell them to step aside and start small, but start. Creating things is one of the most incredibly satisfying things, whether it is writing, any form, painting, sculpting, photography, athletically creating a healthier you by doing sports, and creating a team that counts you as a vital part of the team.

The realm of creating is limitless unless you listen to your inner self telling you that it can’t be done. And that is NOT true! It can be done, and there is so much reward. Not every day or every class will be all peachy, but that’s okay; my Dad used to say, “That’s how you build character!” Thanks, Dad! He left my world too soon for my liking, but he was right, and I wish he could see me now. Back in school, finishing my degree, stepping out of my comfort zone, well,  “leaping” out of it…If you have something you want to do, something you want to create, GET OUT THERE!! The first step is terrifying for everyone, but where it leads to can be amazing!!


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