If you are comfortable, are you living?
“If you are comfortable, you are not living”. This has been rolling around in my mind since I met with Alexis... she and her family lives by this credo. She has just spent the last 3 years on a sailboat sailing the world with her husband and son, who is now 14 years old and was home-schooled; they have a new baby that they came home to the states to birth and to work for a while in order to save up their reserves so that they can head back out onto the boat for destinations unknown.
As I sit here and listen to my 10 year old son ask me where a pencil is and how he can do his homework because there isn't enough space on the homework page to work the multiplication problems... I'm again struck by my conversation with Alexis. She laments the fact that our current education system is messed up. How it isn't building great thinkers. Her son has a dog walking business making $800 p/month, a boat washing business and is planning on getting his deep diving certificate so that he can take that boat washing business to the next level. Now some of this might be just the child that he is, there are kids in regular schools who also are business minded and can find their own pencils and figure out how to get a separate sheet of paper to work their math equations, but I'm curious if having to be responsible for a night watch in the middle of the ocean when you are 12 years old, or being in charge of a sail that will keep the boat upright and everyone safe, that being trusted with all of these responsibilities because your parents know that you have to be trusted – allows himself to trust himself and challenge himself more. To figure out what needs to be done and do it – as opposed to just turning to the nearest adult to figure out any small hiccups and because it's easier, they do it.
What if we all took on “if you aren't comfortable, you aren't living” for ourselves? If we are comfortable, we are not challenging ourselves enough. I am trying to embrace this for myself, I go out with self-doubt and it can be quite uncomfortable approaching strangers – and yet I do it, as I love being in the conversation, I love how it challenges me to think differently, get a glimpse into someone else's life and the connection that I feel with now knowing a complete stranger. How it inspires me to want to take my kids on a vacation to Morocco, travel more to see how others in the world live, to remove ourselves from the social constricts of modern society and to not take for granted what we have here. I'm often at odds with myself, and truth be told my husband, on how much autonomy we give our children. I love the idea of free range children, allowing them to grow in freedom – but there are constraints in current society, there are fears that are real and those that are imagined, there are fears that would only manifest themselves if something horrible happened. But the thing is the more you challenge yourself, the easier it gets – the challenges change as you are more confident to reach for them, because it's addicting to accomplish something you feared. And I need to remember that with my own kids, to make sure they are out striving for something and wading in the uncomfortable of the unknown so they can experience the thrill of accomplishment.
Just earlier this morning I watched my son make his own smoothie – I didn't remind him to cut the bananas, add kale or chia seeds... none of which he did, but he made it and I didn't interfere or help. It is such a small step towards autonomy and trusting in self – for both of us to step back and figure out what needs to be done. And trusting that just because it's easier for me to do more for them, I'm not doing them any favors. Now I just need to remember that and practice it in the future, for myself, and my kids.