My Search for a Comfort Zone


A rain slicked street going past some old red brick single story business buildings, with a rainbow arcing across the sky and ending above those buildings.

Village at the end of the rainbow.

    Oregon!  That is where I wanted to live!  Numerous issues of National Geographic Magazine, viewed back in my childhood years, had shown me the wonders of the Pacific Northwest - rain forests, windswept beaches on the Pacific Ocean, a volcano in the form of Mount Hood.  It looked like heaven.  Early adulthood I was living in the same small central Ohio town where I had been born and raised.  It lacked the grandeur I believed I required to achieve personal fulfillment.  Intuitively I felt that a ’geographical cure’ would fill the void I sensed in my life, and I knew where to go.
       Officially ejected from the second college I attended, I found myself at the age of 21 living with my parents once again.  What a let down!  They enforced the same strict living standards and house rules that I chaffed under before I left for college several years earlier.  Something had to change – but I had no desire to change my own behavior. My folks decided to catalyze the change process by kicking me out of the house.  Nature has long held to the practice of kicking the young out of the nest, and hoping they do well.
        Because my eviction was so hastily forced upon me, I did not have a lot of time to consider my options.  The fact was, I had never seriously considered my options, and my quasi-fantasy world seemed to have worked just fine up to this point.  One thing I was sure of, I would live my life the way I wanted to, and Oregon might fit into that vague plan somewhere.
        Moving to the big city held little allure, and seemed like too much of a hassle, so I found a nice apartment in an old house across town.  The move was a ten-minute walk from my parent’s house.  So much for expanding my horizons, or taking advantage of an opportunity!
        In truth, I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone.  I had friends nearby - people whom I had known for years.  I knew who to ask to help me with things, or just to hang out with.  In my little world I knew where stuff was, and how to get there.  Basically, I wanted to maintain that small bubble of perceived security.  Besides, I had the illusion that my feelings of restlessness and discontentedness originated from having to live under my parents strict (though reasonable) rules, and to some extent that was true.    I had hoped that adulthood somehow magically conferred some living rights and privileges. As far as acquiring useful life skills and understanding, well, I hoped I could dictate those terms.  That was another of my illusions, and it was about to be challenged by reality!  There would be more disappointments and shattered illusions to follow, but eventually they would set me on a path of introspection and personal growth.
        It only took a couple of years for my living / working / financial situation to become obvious even to me.  In order to get a better paying job, I truly needed a degree or some marketable skills.  Reluctantly I had to acknowledge that my parents had been correct about this, and that I had squandered the opportunity while they were footing the bill.  This all began to sink in while assessing my job at a warehouse.  It was a good place to start, but I would be stuck there, or someplace similar, for the rest of my life if I did not make some serious changes.  My solution was to attend a local community college at night.  It would take as long as it needed to take. The number of courses taken each semester would be directly proportional to the cost, and how much time I could reasonably devote to studying and attending classes.
        Financially speaking, when I hastily rented my first apartment, I had bitten off more than I could chew.  The monthly rent, though only $135 per month, was too large a percentage of my monthly income to permit long-term financial survival.  The additional expense of college meant I would be flat-broke in a few short months.  College mattered more than a cool apartment.  I needed to move!        An ad in the local paper caught my eye - "1 bedroom apartment, $88 per month, Lithopolis," and it listed a phone number.  Though I believed myself to be rather worldly, I did not know what an efficiency apartment was, nor what could technically be called a one-bedroom apartment, but I understood the financial advantage of significantly lower rent! 
        The man who answered my call arranged for a meeting at one of the two bars in the tiny village of Lithopolis.  Inquiring as to how I would recognize him, he said, "don't worry about that!  I will recognize you!"  That struck me as rather odd.  I had heard this little town was rather strange, and this further confirmed that impression.
       Although Lithopolis was the closest village to my hometown of Canal Winchester, it was as if it existed on another world.  Oregon made more of an impression on me than the next-door community which I ignored, or was basically indifferent about.  All I really knew was that it was on the side of a hill, and every other town around me was on flat land.  That made it singularly different.
        While nursing a draft beer, and looking around the noisy crowded bar, a stout older looking man approached and stated my name - he did not inquire.  We made some small talk, but in actuality I was being grilled.  The man was taking my measure, and I would not even know where the apartment was located until he was satisfied that I passed muster on a scale I only intuitively knew existed.
        Apparently, I passed the test. The man asked if I would like to see the apartment. The old building was a few doors up the street from the bar, and the apartment was on the ground floor around in back.  It was basically two rooms - a bedroom with a grungy bathroom, and a living room with a kitchen.  In today's world it would be described as having an 'open floor plan'.  Back then it was one notch above a dump - but the rent included all utilities.  It was heated by a large ancient oil burning stove, which dominated the living room-kitchen area.  A large window provided a fine view of the alley in back, some parking spaces, and the trash cans for the apartments in the building.   The apartment was small, funky, but clean.  I took it!  There was no contract - only a handshake.   

        Oregon had been my dream destination, but fear of leaving my comfort zone had made that choice not even a viable option.  I had only moved one Zip Code away from the town of my youth - but it made all the difference in the world, and I was still in Ohio.  Strange new people, new routines, new scenery, and adapting to a different pace and lifestyle of a new town which I would come to call my own.  
        A comfort zone is a state of mind.  It is a sense of peace and security no matter what else is going on in one's life.  Parents can provide that for children and young adults, but it reaches its expiration date and begins to feel like restraint.  At that point a person has to find or create their own comfort zone and live their own life.  
        No matter how it happened, I definitely found my sense of security and place in this little village at the end of the rainbow.  It had been a choice borne out of financial distress, and the chance notice of an advertisement, coupled with my trepidation of doing anything more risky or dramatic. Was it fate, or God's plan - who knows?   I will never know for sure, but it has turned out to have been a wonderful happenstance.  Moving to some faraway place was not required for me to confront what was going on inside me. 
        A sojourn to Oregon was finally achieved several years ago.  It happened by chance!  While I did not get to spend enough time there, the several days in that state did not disappoint.  That journey became the primary story for my book titled Hitting the Road Without a Map.  One of the prime takeaways from that trip was that it solidified my belief that we can take our comfort zone with us. It is within us - if we seek it, and that had been the last place I ever thought I would find it.


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