Breaking Boundaries -- And Your Comfort Zone - by Jessica Goodwin for MotherHustle
“The saying goes: ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ And for me, it’s totally true.”

When I was a freshman in college, I tagged along with my roommate and some guy to a nudist colony for the day.

Not some European beach where topless sunbathing is the norm. Not a pool party where chicks wildly tossed their bikinis aside. A straight-up nudist resort. We stuck out like sore thumbs, the college kids with tan lines that were there just for the day just to cross something crazy off their bucket list.

And that’s probably the whole reason why I did it in the first place.

When my roommate and her friend were talking about going to check this place out, the dude looked at me and said, “You probably wouldn’t go, would you?” I took it as some kind of challenge. Why did he think I wouldn’t go? Why wouldn’t I go? Why the hell not?

Since college, I’ve obviously (thankfully!) done a lot of growing up.

I was a teacher for 13 years and I was married for almost a decade. Let me rephrase that, I was unhappily married in a stagnant relationship for almost a decade before I finally wised up and decided I was brave enough to leave the guy and start my life over. And that right there, was where I basically learned that for me to truly be happy, I had to give boundaries the boot.

The saying goes: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” And for me, it’s totally true.

After getting divorced in 2012, I rekindled my relationship with my high school friend/sort-of college sweetheart. He was basically the one who got away. The problem was, he was all the way in Washington, D.C. and I was down in Florida.

I figured the only way we’d ever know if we were meant to be together was… if we were actually together. So, I applied for a teaching job at a school where he lived and ended up getting a request for an interview. I went to visit him for a long weekend, did the interview, got the job, and never looked back. I moved in with him in a ‘burb outside of D.C. A city I’d been to twice before. A city where I knew absolutely nobody. 1,000 miles away from my family. But…

I loved it. I love everything about where we live.

I love the small-town feel even though we’re just minutes away from a big city with tons of things to do. I love that I get all four seasons. I love sitting out back with a glass of wine on summer evenings and entertaining folks around the winter holidays. I enjoyed my new teaching job, which was like a breath of fresh air after having been in the profession for so long, and I loved the friends I made.

We got married in 2013, almost a year after I made the move. Shortly after that, we started talking about having a baby.

I had always been on the fence about having kids, because I couldn’t see myself starting a family with my ex-husband, and because, as a teacher, you have 20-something kids to worry about for most of the year… that takes a lot out of you! But one night, I realized that the only person I’d ever want to have a baby with was my husband; I knew he’d be such a great dad, and that together we’d make an awesome team.

Our son came along in 2015. Our earliest months together were awesome; my husband spent a ton of time at home with us and we did everything together. While we had our share of sleepless nights, we got through each and every one of them by relying on each other.

When it came time for me to return to the classroom, I was at a loss.

Teaching was the only job I’d ever known. It felt strange to not want to go back, but I couldn’t imagine leaving my kiddo with someone else while I went back to work. I didn’t know what to do – even though my husband knew what was in my heart all along. He was the one who suggested I stay home and take up writing full time – something I would never have been brave enough to do if it wasn’t for his encouragement and support.

Thanks to him, I made the leap. In 2015, I started freelance writing.

I literally just started writing things in any spare moment I had and looked for places to send them to, or vice-versa. I’d find a site that I liked reading, and I’d figure out how to submit my stuff. I branched out and started writing for other websites and newspapers, too. A little bit of everything. I’ve had my byline on websites and newspapers big and small. Me. ME! Just because I shoved the fear and self-doubt aside and dared to try.

2017 rolled around and I began to wonder what would happen when our son starts school. I figure I’m going to have to go back to work and get a proper job eventually, but I was worried. My resume was going to be a mish-mash of an education degree, years of teaching experience, and a boatload of random freelance writing pieces that didn’t exactly line up. I worried that maybe I should start thinking of going back to school to get some sort of degree in writing to accompany all of the writing experience that I’d wandered my way into.

It was time to squash the self-doubt again.

So now I’m currently working on my Master’s degree in Creative Writing and Literature with Harvard University Extension School. I figured if I was going back to school, I might as well go big time! As I started my first semester, I was concerned that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. My husband, always my cheerleader, relayed this quote:

“Bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell.”

That’s what I’ve been doing. Chewing like hell. It can be rough, trying to balance all the reading and writing I have to do for school with the writing I’m doing to try to help pay some bills. Plus, we’re in the middle of potty-training and it’s almost time to move #ToddlerGoodwin to his big kid bed soon. Life is crazy and I’m exhausted… but it’s so worth it. I couldn’t be happier.

My point is… Do something crazy. Do something that scares you. Be bold. Be brave. And then you’ll have something to really be proud of!


Jessica Goodwin lives near Washington, DC with her husband, son, and their two cats. She’s written four novels and her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Baby Gaga, Chocolate & Chaos, Tribe Magazine, Mamalode, and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Nope, she’s writing. Follow her on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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