Choosing The Deep Discomfort of Life

“Tomorrow morning, after breakfast, each of you will be handed a tent and a sleeping bag, and you’ll be doing a 24 hour solo camping journey. We suggest no phones, no distractions, and fasting optional”

This news was sprung on the group of us in Ecuador a few days before the real reason we were there - to climb Cotopaxi volcano (which I’ve written about here).

You would think that we would need to rest up and pamper ourselves before undertaking such a huge climb - or at least, that’s what I thought.

But what I was being prepared for, over and over again, was to get out of my comfort zone, in as many ways as possible. And as much as I think I love the idea of the great outdoors, the truth is, I hate camping. I could go on, but cold, wet, buggy and the bathroom thing covers some of it.

My immediate reaction to this news was dread and resistance.  I actually felt a little sick to my stomach. 

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely saw the benefit of this experience - and oftentimes had mused to myself how it would be great to do something like this. 

But when the experience was thrust upon me, it was interesting to realize that I likely would not have voluntarily signed myself up for this. I needed to be pushed.

And so, the next morning, I found myself alone on a patch of rugged Ecuadorian landscape with my little tent set up for the night.

As I stood looking out from my lone patch of nature, being present to what it felt like to be in my skin, what I experienced was a deep sense of loneliness, fear, and despair. 

I think I often feel like this, but can distract myself out of it. That day, I chose to explore why I seemed to have so much resistance to life.

My parents grew up during the Korean War and therefore experienced a lot of trauma and heartbreak. My father left his entire family behind as the oldest son and at age 17, fled North Korea on foot, never to see his parents again.

They experienced hunger, and real danger.

So growing up, every option was weighed from the perspective of safety, which ruled out a lot of experiences.

My sister and I grew up suffocated in overprotection, in a world where my father just could not let go of the vine as we got older. This meant no dating, no sleep away camps, very limited social participation with our age group, and no going away for university.

What I did not realize until that moment in Ecuador, was how this single minded fixation on safety that I had inherited from my parents had dampened my spirit and experience of life.

The clarity of how much life I had missed out on because of this brought me to my knees in racking sobs of sadness and grief.

And I made a choice to release what no longer had to be my story.

This was followed by a sense of calm and peace in my body, and ironically, a sense of safety.

All the comfort in the world does not equate happiness. Without the contrast of discomfort, it’s hard to appreciate the gifts we are blessed with. I don’t know that I’ll ever be excited by the prospect of doing hard things, but I will continue to choose them knowing that the juiciness of life lies on the other side. And hands down, I choose life.

Leave a comment