What It Feels Like To Redefine Your Comfort Zone

By Thomas Boeh // As Told to Jason Wood

Jason Wood

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Hey Man, Screw It
May 11, 2018

I feel like I just opened up really. Kind of like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, just like “bam,” that’s who I am.

An extrovert is the person that you either love, hate or just put up with in class. They’re the person that shouts out an answer to any question. They’re the person who can make everyone laugh and always has a smile on their face. They’re the person you can point out in a crowd. I think that’s the person I am now.

But it wasn’t always so easy for me to stand out. I didn’t always shout out the answer to any question, or have a smile on my face, or make everyone laugh, and you definitely wouldn’t have chosen me out of a crowd. For a while I was the kid who was afraid to read out loud in class. I was the kid who wouldn’t make eye contact. I was the kid who tried not to speak because I was afraid of stuttering and being made fun of. That’s who I used to be.

I moved to Antioch in fourth grade, midway through the year: obviously not the best time for a kid to move to a new place and have to meet new people. I had moved around a lot as a kid and I think that contributed to my quietness; I wasn’t ever sure if I was going to move again or what would happen next, but even before I came here I had always been the quiet kid.

My quietness continued from fourth grade all the way through middle school. It was a combination of being the new kid, my stutter, being uncomfortable and not being the stereotypical athlete. I would have spurts of happiness, but more often than not I just wanted to leave whatever situation I was in. I was the kid in the corner that no one really saw and whose opinion didn’t matter.

Sports at the time weren’t much better. I was just a short, chubby, white kid that didn’t play football, didn’t wrestle, and that’s what kids like me were supposed to do. Instead I played basketball and baseball; I felt like I was more Lebron James than Brian Urlacher. I just didn’t fit in.

Then when I got to high school, something clicked. I was so talkative outside of school with my family and sports teams that I thought, If I’m like this outside of school, then why not be like this in school?. Until my first high school baseball season, I was still the quiet version of myself, but once the season started, I started to come out of my shell. Things changed in the hallways from a simple handshake or a “what’s up” nod, to me being able to say “hi” to people. Baseball helped, but it wasn’t until my sophomore English class that I started to become who I am now. That class was filled with people from all different cliques, so nobody could really judge each other. Up until that class, I had never been able to feel comfortable at school, but for some reason I did now.

That feeling spread into the next year. Junior year I really hit my stride. That’s when I hit my absolute “this is me” feeling. This is who I was supposed to be, this outgoing guy, and it felt so much better than being quiet.

I used to worry about getting excited because it would cause me to stutter, but then I realized that I wasn’t enjoying life, so I figured I should just be excited. I figured that stuttering happens and people can get over it. I used to say “sorry” when I would laugh out loud, but now I’m not afraid because apparently it’s so loud that it’s contagious; I probably get that from my mom. I used to be afraid to do anything in public, but now I’m dancing at pep rallies, and supposedly I’m not half bad. I used to not want to go out and play pickup basketball games because I didn’t want anyone to say anything bad about me, but now I’ll even be talking fake trash when I go to play a game. I had always been afraid to put my voice out there, but now that’s all I do, and I think I’m most proud about that.

Now, I feel freer and just overall happier. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin; I don’t feel like I have to cover and hide anymore. I’m now able to be who I was raised as, but couldn’t show before. It’s just one big weight off of my shoulders. Now I’ve just accepted who I really am, and that’s going to be the kid you either love, hate or just put up with.

It’s senior year, so I think that if you don’t already know me, then you’ll start noticing me now, either for my loud voice or semi-tasteful dance moves.