I always used to be afraid of putting myself out there. Whenever the idea came into question, a million “what-ifs” would come into my head: what if they don't like me? What if they think I’m weird? What if I say the wrong thing? That last one was certainly the biggest concern, and kept me from doing a lot of things that I may have actually ended up enjoying. About two months into my year abroad in England, I began to feel strangely isolated. All my social time was spend with those inside my program (who were all from my same college). And, as incredibly wonderful as that group of people was, I felt like I was missing out on something, that I needed something that was completely my own, apart from the group. I had only joined one club on campus, but that hardly counted as putting myself out there, because I had joined with my best friend and roommate. We would go to events and socials together, but never really leave each other’s side.
For a while I thought I was putting myself out there by doing this, but then I came to realize something: I was still in my shell. I wasn't doing anything that challenged me, pushed me, or helped me grow at all really. So, I did something that “two-months-prior” me would never have thought to do…. I joined a club where I knew no one. Absolutely, utterly no one. The idea scared me a bit, but there was also a glory in it: what was the worst that could happen? The beauty of the fact that I didn’t know anyone in this club was that if I did embarrass myself, who would actually know or care outside of this foreign group of people, who I didn’t even know? So, the next Wednesday morning, I threw on my Wellies and marched myself across campus to meet the Clay Pigeon Shooting Club. Crazy, right? Not only was I going to spend the afternoon with a group of students that I knew nothing about, but we were going to go shoot guns in a field. Cool, right? Correct. It was very cool. And, before long, these Wednesday afternoons became my favorite part of the week.
This was also the first time I truly submerged myself in the British culture. Yes, I had gone to classes beforehand filled with only British students, but only for an hour clip at a time, and quite honestly I was more focused on getting the material done than making friends, being the shy introvert that I normally am. However, being out in a field in the middle of nowhere with a group of rambunctious brits, you kind of have to socialize and make friends. There was just something about the environment that made shy me realize that it was okay to break out of my shell. And as it turned out, it was quite a fantastic group of people. Before long, I felt like just another one of the group. Being part of this club challenged me as a person, and brought out a side of me that I didn’t know was even there. It showed me that I could be outgoing and adventurous, and most importantly, stand on my own. Some of the best times I had during my year abroad were out on this field. By breaking out of my comfort zone not only to meet an entirely new group of people, but try something completely new, guns *gasp* I learned more about myself than ever before. Looking back, the only thing that I would have changed would be to have joined sooner.
So, the lesson in all of this is to never be afraid of the “what if”. As someone who lived by the “what if” for 20 years, it really isn't as scary as you might think. If you just take the leap, soon you may only wonder why you didn’t take it sooner. Because in some cases, the grass really is greener on the other side.