Dive into your discomfort



    As the year draws to a close, I enter a predictably pensive mood brought on by ever-waning daylight and chilly evenings forcing me inside with a cup of tea and prompting reflection on my growth as a person this year. In 2020, we have all come face-to-face with frustration, sadness, worry, anxiety, and discomfort. For me, this has been a year of discomfort and learning how to sit, embrace, and become friends with it . 

For me, this has been a year of discomfort and learning how to sit, embrace, and become friends with my discomfort. 


    For as long as I can remember, when something challenged my worldview, I was unable to think or move on until I figured out how to assimilate the new piece of information into my existing mental framework. Once I had a rational explanation, I could catalogue that thought away in my mind and let go of it. But for a while, answering a question would consume me. It was not that I had to go write a treatise on 'why the sky is blue' but more that I needed to have a mental pathway to explain something shocking. I feared if I did not answer the question or address the thought, my whole existence would implode. I'd be left with an existential crisis. 


    This need to explain my unanswered questions seems to be a good thing; however, many times my desire for an answer right away prevented me from truly understanding an issue at hand and learning from it. Ultimately, I would run kicking and screaming away from having to sit in a pit of discomfort and confront realities that new information uncovered. Interestingly, this year has taught me that the cognitive dissonance I run away from can actually lead to a lot of growth if I wrestle with it. Through multiple difficult situations this year I have seen this in action. 


The cognitive dissonance I run away from can actually lead to a lot of growth if I wrestle with it


    This year, I have been continually forced into areas of discomfort which has greatly challenged me. In January, I painstakingly troubleshooted code and wondered if I would ever graduate. In February, my husband went to Germany for a month leaving me and my people-person personality on my own. In March, we had to shut down all lab research and transition to fully working at home. In April, I grappled with the potential that graduation could be delayed due to COVID-19. In May, I realized the depth of systemic racism in our country and am still working to understand it. In July, my boss told me that I needed to 'sit and wrestle' with my data and think about it deeply so I could understand what it meant. In August, my grant proposal was due, requiring hours of digging into the literature to find an idea. September brought a period of depression where all I could do was read my Bible, clinging to the Lord being my only way through. In October, what I thought was a stomachache turned into appendicitis which brought physical discomfort to the plethora of mental and emotional discomfort the year has piled on. 


    I do not list these off to play the 'worse-off' Olympics but instead to share that all of these situations have not been comfortable for me. All of these instances involved me digging my heels in the sand, screaming at God 'WHY!?', only to be shown that these experiences were there for a reason. Ultimately, they grew me as a person and helped me realize that there is much to gain by being in an uncomfortable phase. 


These experiences were there for a reason -  they helped me realize that there is much to gain by being in an uncomfortable phase. 


    If someone else had taken over my coding project, I would not look back with such pride in my achievement to figure out the problem. Had I not wrestled (and continue to wrestle) with my thoughts on race and really sought to dig deep into better understanding that, then my heart would not be as burdened as it is now. If I chose to use my period of depression as a time to mope and complain then I would not have emerged from a time I felt my lowest in complete and utter awe of God and His faithfulness to me. I also would not have realized how crucial it is to acknowledge when you are going through something hard as you keep pressing on. 


    This year has taught me the importance of not just dealing with discomfort but diving into discomfort. Difficult days in my life are never easy to face, but I'm hoping that 2020 will give me perspective for the future. I want to look back on this year of discomfort with fondness because I know that hard things continue to grow me as a person and grow me closer to God. 


--GeneticGinger 


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