Imagine a meadow with a fence around it. It's warm and sunny, little bees and flowers moving slowly in a light breeze. Well walked trails go up and down through the grass, you stroll around on them. One of them eventually takes you to an edge of the meadow. You stop, look.
Beyond the fence is a forest. The forest is darker, filled with shadows and uncertainty. You suspect there are bigger animals in there, maybe elks and wolves or even bears. You look down the path you're on, see it disappearing into the shadows beneath heavy tree limbs. There's something alluring about this path, you wonder where it leads, what you'll encounter if you decide to take it. It's almost like the wind whispers to you, call for you. There's this urge, a longing you can't really describe, a pull in your heart. You wonder whether to turn back or go forward.
So obviously, the universe splits into three parallel realities.
You turn back.
That indescribable longing scares you, it seems almost magical, like you're under some dangerous spell. The deep forest with unknowns and potential big, angry animals is too unsafe. It's not worth it, just for some irrational urge. With a last look at the forest, you turn back.
The grass folds itself behind you and soon you can't see the forest anymore. You go sit in your favorite place, play with the hummingbirds and smell the flowers. All is warm and well again, and life goes on. You grow old there, surrounded by your meadow, living a comfortable life. But throughout your days, there's always the memory of that path, the silent whisper of what if?
You go sit on the fence.
The path pulls your heart to it, so strongly, you just can't go back. You suspect your heart would break in two if you did. But the darkness of the forest is so thick, it looks so dangerous, you don't know if you'd survive going forward. There's no way to decided, you're pulled in two directions at once. Frustrated, you pace back and forth behind the fence, trying to find a way into the forest that looks less intimidating, but you can't find any.
With a beating heart, you climb up on the fence. The wood is cold and rough, giving your hands scratches. You sit down on the highest bar of the fence, facing the forest, feet swinging. One bold jump would be enough to be in the forest but you just… can't.
You untie your shoes and throw them away, stand up and walk barefoot on the rough fence. The chilly wind from the forest brush your skin, foreign smells come and go. You get a glimpse of an animal jumping behind the trees.
Times goes by and the fence becomes your life. You make a nice bed beneath it. Always looking to the forest, always longing, dreaming, wondering, but never daring to take that jump.
You go into the forest.
The forest whispers of adventure and you listen. Everything about it scares you, the shadows, the potential animals and monsters, the cold darkness. It's all unknown. But the fact that it is unknown makes it impossible to stop wondering what lies beyond those trees, what hides in the shadows. In spite of the dangers, you have to know. Maybe you're crazy. Maybe that's okay.
With a heart beating like a drum in your chest, you take a big jump and find yourself standing outside of the fence. You look back, the meadow so warm and comfortable, but you've decided. With a deep breath, you turn towards the forest and start walking.
The trees are high and the sounds are different. You hear birds you didn't know existed, let your fingers brush the branches of trees so high you can't even see the top. Everything is so big and new, your eyes widened to its full capacity, heart beating with thrilled flutters.
Then the path splits. You head down one but it soon splits again and then the real magic of the forest happens.
In an explosion, the whole forest splits into an infinite amount of paths, big and small, crooked and winding, each a unique adventure. Your universe is split into infinite possibilities, billions and yet billions of lives all happening at the same time. In one, you become friends with an elk, riding on it's back. In another, you climb a tree so high it sways and you can see above the forest, thousands of tree tops waving back to you. On one path, a flock of birds teaches you to fly. On another, you dig into the ground and find sparkling stones and hidden chambers.
Sometimes, you meet other hikers travelling their own paths. You stop and talk to them, exchange stories and lessons learned over a fire at night, then you keep hiking your respective paths. The further you go into the forest, the less obvious the paths become until you just strike out on your own. You make your path as you go, letting your heart guide you.
The forest is still filled with scary strange creatures, and you still don't know what hides behind the next bend, but it all excites you.
The first time you divert back to your meadow to rest, you're a bit shocked. It doesn't look like you remember it. Suddenly, it's grown. Parts of the forest is now inside of your fence. Each time you go back it's grown a bit. Each time what lies inside of the fence becomes more varied and interesting.
After a while you don't have to strike out as often because a lot of your new favorite adventures are no longer outside of the fence. Every time you go out again, there's the small voice that maybe you shouldn't, that it could be dangerous. But now that you've seen what can be found outside the fence, you never stop going.
Your life is long and varied, with many adventures shaping you. You do get a few scars but they only remind you of all that you've experienced, of that you've lived.
You probably know where I'm going with all of this.
The meadow and everything inside of the fence is your comfort zone.
The deep forest beyond the fence is what's outside of your comfort zone.
I want you to think of what lies in your forest, or maybe it's an ocean, or mountains? Have you been there? What did you find?
What does your fence look like? Where is it? Do you know?
The comfort zone is familiar, it's our known and comfortable paths, the ones we've traveled a few times and aren't scared to go down again.
Every now and again we find ourselves nearing the fence, in our art or our lives. We realize the path we're on leads outside, into the forest and we find ourselves having to choose. Should we go back or go forward? What lies ahead and will I be able to manage it? Who would I become out there, in the deep forest? How would it transform me, my life, my art? How would it change your future?
When the time comes to decide, do you listen to the pull of your heart or the uncertainty holding you back? Both of those voices will always be there, at the edge of your comfort zone. If it's not a bit scary and unknown, it's not where your comfort zone ends.
If you left your creative comfort zone, what would you create? Would you pick up a new technique, a new medium? Would you try something you think you can't do? Would you tell your inner story? Only you know where that fence stands and only you can jump over it.
Only jumping over it will tell you what you can find beyond it.
Will you jump?