I have this weird love affair with Atlantic Avenue. It’s possibly one of the ugliest roads in Brooklyn. I know this intellectually, but I find myself pulled towards it. I recently started running “seriously” and I find myself ending up at Atlantic Avenue during my cooldown walk, when my brain is surging with feel-good chemicals. I stare down that huge road throbbing with angry traffic and honking horns and gypsy cabs, and smile like a total idiot.
A big part of why I’m smiling is that I’m looking in the direction of Target. There is a Target on Atlantic Avenue at the Atlantic Terminal Mall. And I love Target. I go to that mall all the time. I’ll think of one little thing I need that could be obtained relatively easily in my neighborhood or even on the internet—almond milk, the Neutrogena sesame oil I like, a DVD of the Big Lebowski—and make it into an expedition to Target. To me, Target is like walking into a hug. Something about the lighting makes me feel totally at peace (despite that there are screaming children—and sometimes even screaming mothers—everywhere). And something about that lighting makes me want to buy everything in the store. I love going there. And I have to stop. Because I live in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with incredible shopping and cultural attractions, and I am spending three-hour chunks of time going to a cookie cutter shopping center to buy cosmetics.
I recently attended a deeply powerful meditation workshop over the Easter weekend that I spent visiting my family in upstate New York. After the lesson, during the discussion portion of the program, someone in the audience said something really funny and powerful that has been echoing in my mind: “My comfort zone sucks.” He went on to elaborate, “I should call it ‘the stuck zone.’”
That’s what Target is for me. It’s the stuck zone. It feels great to go there, because it’s easy and it’s familiar and it feels good. But it’s in the same vein as eating the same thing every day or always listening to the same songs from your “Recently played” playlist on your iPhone or curling up with Netflix to unwind after a long day at work on a nearly daily basis: it feels nice and restorative, but it’s really shrinking your life.
When I need to buy something, I need to remind myself that I’m a published author at work on her second book; I should buy whatever the hell it is as quickly as possible so I can get back to work, rather than making a three-hour production out of buying soap because I find big box stores comforting. If I just need to get out of the house, I can look on Yelp for an independent coffee shop in my neighborhood that I haven’t tried yet and go there with a book. And if I have a three-hour block where I genuinely need an active leisure activity, there are plenty of horizon-raising things in this city for a single gal to do for an afternoon, like picking for treasure in vintage shops in the East Village or East Williamsburg or strolling around historic neighborhoods to admire the architecture.
Is your comfort zone really a stuck zone? What will your strike from your life?