Comfort is something that we focus on in every aspect of our lives. We want clothes that are made from the softest materials, beds that mold to fit our bodies just right, and even technology that makes it so we never have to leave the comfort of our couch. Think about it! From birth, children are given comfort objects that help them when they are fussy or upset, so it only makes sense that, in everything we do, our goal is to be comfortable. The funny thing is, it wasn’t until I became uncomfortable that I truly became happy.
When I graduated from high school, I had my whole future planned out. I would go to college with my scholarship papers in hand, major in music education, take all the classes I needed, have a stellar experience with my student teaching program, graduate with my degree, obtain a job as a middle school band teacher, and live happily ever after. It was set. Music was my “comfort” zone that I excelled in, so naturally that was the career path that I chose. I spent my entire college career making sure that I stayed on track to make my future as comfortable as possible. I got a call, after graduating in 2013, which offered me a job as the band teacher of my very own middle school program. Alas, everything that I had been working so hard for had finally come into fruition, and it was time to make my plans a reality.
As I began my teaching career, within days I realized that I was unfulfilled. Here I was, twenty-two years old, doing exactly what I had planned for so long, and I wasn’t happy. My “comfort” had quickly become the thing that obligated me every day when I woke up. I realized that in my years of preparing myself for my future, I completely forgot to find what really fulfilled me. I was so concerned with staying inside the box of my “comfort” zone, that I let my passions go to the wayside. In the name of my “comfort,” I became uncomfortable.
The interesting thing about being uncomfortable is that it forces you to fight for yourself and approach life in a different way. As I continued to be unhappy with everything that I tried in my teaching career, I started seeking out what it was that I truly wanted. I reflected on the things from my past that truly made me feel fulfilled, and one common trait kept showing up: fighting for what was right. For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about helping people and advocating for social justice. I wasn’t always able to be super involved because of the predetermined plans I had set for my earlier self, but, when I was able to partake in issues of advocacy, an overwhelming feeling of fulfillment consumed me. Even in my teaching career, I realized the part of the job that I did enjoy was when I was able to advocate for a student who was struggling. So, there it was, my answer to the lack of fulfillment, staring me directly in the face. I knew what I needed to do.
After two years of being unhappy and unfulfilled, I took the leap of faith and decided to resign from my “comfort” plan. I did all that I could to become involved in issues of social justice and advocacy in order to make my passions a reality. It wasn’t easy. I applied to job after job with no feedback; I volunteered with advocacy organizations whenever I could; and, though I was tired and stressed and worried, the satisfaction and passion that I felt far outweighed any fear that I had. I finally landed a job with the TurnOUT! Charlotte campaign, then again with the TurnOUT! NC campaign. For the first time, I woke up every morning excited for life and the fight for justice that I knew was my purpose in life. I found that the fight for intersectional equality introduced me to a side of myself that I didn’t know existed, and it wasn’t until I made myself uncomfortable that I truly became happy.
So, it is after all of this that I get to say that I am ecstatic to join the team of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network as the Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator. I am ready to join in this fight to empower and advocate for those impacted by HIV/AIDS. I care so deeply for people and equality, and I will do all that I can to make a difference in this world. Your struggle is my struggle. Your fight is my fight.
In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
– Matt Martin, NCAAN Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator