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Who knew my Year of Firsts would have so many beautiful rewards?

I don’t know if you all recall, but in 2016, after reading Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes, I decided to make myself uncomfortable and to start saying YES to more things in my life.  It is interesting how often I was doing the opposite, I hadn’t really noticed where I was putting limits on myself until I was focused on not doing that.  Before too long I became much more comfortable with saying Yes to all the things I would normally say No to.  What I found most fascinating about my year of making myself uncomfortable, was that by saying Yes more, I started to say No to the things that I was stuck in a pattern of saying Yes to.  It was so interesting to see that there were actually a great many things in my day to day life that I was in the habit of saying Yes to, but that I hated.  There were so many things that had become what I now refer to as the “shoulds” of my life, or the habitual yeses that didn’t bring me joy.  When I started to say Yes to all the things I would normally, and habitually say No to it opened me up, not only to new experiences and personal growth, but also to freedom.  Because by saying Yes I actually learned to say No more effectively, and more completely.  What a cool outcome from one simple shift in attitude.  Amazing really.

My Year of Yes then took me into another opportunity for more personal growth and that was, this year, 2017 I decided to push myself that little bit further out of my comfort zone by also having a Year of Firsts.  Because although I had made the commitment to say Yes more, I hadn’t really been forced to be that uncomfortable, meaning I didn’t find it that hard to do.  Which meant I knew I still had some growing to, I needed to become uncomfortable in order to fundamentally change in my core being.

But how?  What were things that I still wasn’t pushing myself to do?  One of the biggest one for me, if you recall the charity event I attended in LA, was to go to events on my own.  Meaning parties, functions where I literally know nobody.  This was a huge one for me.  People are always shocked to learn that I’m the most shy extrovert you will ever meet.  Even YB doesn’t believe me, all these years later.  In fact he often accuses me of being able to make friends with a plastic bag.  It is true I’m very friendly, and super gregarious, when I have a wing-man at my side, but put me in a room all alone, where I know nobody and I honestly wish the floor would swallow me whole.  I don’t like it, not one bit.  So knowing how grossly uncomfortable it makes me I was like; “alright Shantelle, this is up next.  This year you will do things you’ve never done before.”  And I have.  I have had an incredible year of firsts.  Some have been more for the soul, through experiences that I’ve always wanted to have.

Such as walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.  My daughters and I did it during our trip to New York, it was fantastic.  We walked it during sunset, and by the time we got to the other side we even got rained on.  It was absolutely magical.

I learned to paddle board, and venture out alone on the lake, at the cottage we bought that I never knew I needed.  I’ve never had a cottage in my life, another first.  Then there were the more challenging firsts, like this weekend.  It’s not uncommon for me to travel on my own.  I do it often.  But always in the same way:  I go from my house in Toronto to my life/friends in California.  Not exactly uncomfortable.  That is until this weekend.  This weekend I got on a plane to come to the celebrations for my very dear friends Kim and Tim, who pulled together an amazing four days of festivities to mark their 25th wedding anniversary, along with Kim’s soon to be 50th birthday.  You might be wondering; “well if they’re your friends, what’s the big deal about coming to hang out with them??”

Hanging out with them wasn’t the issue.  Which if you’ve ever been to something like this you know there isn’t going to be much of, since I’m not the only person in attendance.  I knew there would be little time spent with them, which meant I really was coming to hang out with their 139 other friends whom I’d never met, for a weekend all on my own that was freaking me out.  Freaking me out to the point where I told Yannick on Thursday night that I didn’t think I could do it.  He suggested that I simply cancel.  But I knew that I could not.  I knew that I needed to see this one through, I needed to see it through because it was so difficult to do, therefore I knew it needed to be done, for my growth.  So I put on my big girl panties, got on that plane, had a good night sleep Friday in preparation of walking into a party of all couples, solo, on Saturday.  And you know what friends, after the initial; wow I don’t know anybody but my girlfriend, her hubby and sons wore off, I began to meet people.  Not all of them that keen on getting past first names, but a few that were.  In fact one of them not only lives in Toronto, but she has a cottage twenty minutes from ours.  What a surprise, and she’s lovely.  Like I genuinely like her, which isn’t surprising that when one comes to something like this, hosted by an incredible human, that there will be other fabulous people to meet.  So not only did I not chicken out and cancel my trip, but it seems like I might also have made a new, local friend to celebrate the beauty of life with.  I’m not one to tell people what to do, or how to live their lives; but if I might suggest that you challenge yourself to a Year of Firsts in 2018 I know you won’t be disappointed.  It is so unbelievably soulfully rewarding, you have to live it to believe it.

With only two months left in this, my Year of Firsts, I wonder what other treasures, blessings and rewards the universe has in store for me?  Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.

4 Comments

  1. I’ve been on a similar journey. My step outside of my comfort zone consisted of saying yes to going to a drag show. My niece from Baltimore came into town to see the rest of the family and go to the Ohio State football game. Since she was coming she wanted a girls night out including her Mom, my daughters, and some other local friends. She also wanted to see her friend Andrew, with whom she had attended Denison University. He is also known as Nina West, and is the star performer for the drag show at a local club. Mind you, I’m a retired suburban 64 year old. I’ve been in the advertising and marketing business my entire career, so I’ve worked with and had many wonderful gay friends. But going to a drag show? Definitely outside my comfort zone😜 Well, I loved it. I’m not sure what I expected. But not this!! We had so much fun! The show was great! Great staging, direction costuming, choreography, energy! The crowd was happy. The sense of camaraderie was wonderful! I learned something valuable that night. Sometimes saying no to something new and outside your comfort zone may mean a lost opportunity to have a new and wonderful experience!

  2. How brave of you and inspiring – I still have trouble going out of my comfort zone but reading about your experiences has been encouraging me to create my own. Thank you.

  3. Well, good for you Shantelle! That takes a lot of guts to go it alone. It does have me thinking that I should do a Year of Firsts. I’m not one to do something I don’t want to do. If I get a gut feeling that I shouldn’t go or do something, I’ve learned to listen and go with my instincts. It’s never let me down! But a Year of Firsts, well, that has me thinking I should consider that. The other thing you did, last year was the Year of Yes. Hmmm, that has me thinking too! I have said no to a lot of things I should have said yes to, only to regret not doing it. So, I’m thinking I’ll start with that and see where it leads me, then work in some Firsts along the way. I’d like some surprises in my life. I’m stuck in the same routine, sleep, work around the house, go to work, sleep. I need some spice in my life! Sounds like there are rewards you never knew you’d get. I’m up for that! Thanks!

  4. Good for you! We introverts train ourselves to be extroverts because that is what is expected. It feels good to remove those self imposed barriers. Duty. Shoulds. Work before play. Throw them out the window and seize the day.

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