Exhibit A came last this month at the Sparks Tribune as our longest-tenured newsroom employee, managing editor Janine Kearney, left her job with us after 10 years to pursue teaching at a Catholic high school. In doing so, she certainly left her comfort zone. In my year here as editor, I was able to closely observe how spending a third of her life at this little newspaper had made it like a second womb to her. Not only was it her lifeline, it had nurtured her from the infant stages of adulthood (she was 19 when she started here) to a mature woman preparing for parenthood. As a reporter, she knew all the important people in Sparks and they knew her. She knew the story behind all the major happenings around town and could usually pull up at a moment’s notice a story she had written to help a newer reporter do their job. Then there was the groove she had neatly worn into the piles of paper on her desk where she fit perfectly while typing one of her very lengthy articles.
Despite this obvious comfort with her place of employment, she left her zone to find a new one. It begs the question of why one would leave such familiar surroundings. As the TV theme song goes, don’t we just want to go where everybody knows our name and they’re always glad we came? Don’t we want to go where people know that people are all the same?
I actually know exactly where she is coming from and why she left her comfort zone. I was there myself a year ago. People of Janine’s and my generation (we’re both in our early 30s) are known for, and are almost expected to, jump around from job to job during our 20s after college in an effort to gain different experience and gain a range of skills. She and I, however, chose a different path. My tenure at my previous job wasn’t quite as long as hers, but I was there for seven years and was thoroughly embedded in a comfort zone. Even though I wasn’t there a full 10 years like Janine, my comfort level was even higher than hers: I didn’t work nearly as hard on a day-to-day basis, my hours for most of the year were 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and I earned a lot more money than the Tribune will ever pay out. Besides the perks to my personal life and pocketbook, I knew the job inside and out and I had been the person to help establish many of the products and processes that had become standard operating procedure for the business year in and year out. For a kid who was just on his third professional job and hadn’t even turned 30 yet, it was a pretty sweet deal.
Nonetheless, after about six years there, I needed a change. My comfort zone had gotten a little too comfortable for both me and my employer. There was some friction between me and the owner and even though she never said it in so many words, I think she wanted me out. That’s when I started looking at the rest of the world and thought, “I wonder what else is out there.” The old comfort zone had become an uncomfortable zone, even though many of the things that made it comfortable were still there. Circumstances and human restlessness had crept in and disrupted the comfort. That was when The Roommate and I decided to look for a new comfort zone, which, strangely, we found in Reno.
Having gone through a similar upheaval, I would have been curious to be a fly on the wall to hear how Janine and her husband made the decision for her to leave her comfort zone to find another. I know some of the factors of her situation revolved around working hours and commuting, but once the facts are settled the hard part is getting over the fear of leaving a place we have come to know so well. It’s the kind of gut-wrenching human drama that sells grocery store novels or tickets to Barbara Streisand movies.
Once we pry ourselves from our old comfort zone and begin fashioning a new one, though, an amazing thing happens: We begin to adapt to our new environment and the roots of comfort begin to sprout. When I started my job at the Tribune in June 2007, there was some initial discomfort but it was the kind that you feel when you’re trying on a new shoe. You know that once you walk around in it for a little while, it will mold to fit you. That is exactly what happened with my Daily Sparks Tribune-brand sneaker. It fits pretty comfortably, even though I get rocks in it every day. I am certain Janine’s new footwear will fit her nicely and I hope she doesn’t get too many rocks in it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shake out my shoe.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.