Why I left my comfort zone

Just over a year ago, I quit my agency job of 2 years (in the industry I went to school for) with no future job lined up, no money saved, packed up my things, said goodbye to my friends and family and moved across the country to a city I had been to just once (for a few hours at night so it really didn’t count) where I only really knew one person.

And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.


Let’s rewind a bit more. It was nearing the end of my 3rd year of University, and I had been living the jobless life (by choice) for a year. Taking a year off of work in order to focus on my studies and volunteering was wearing my wallet very thin. I also knew that I needed work experience. At the prime age of 22, I had only worked one job – a waitress at a Tex-Mex restaurant – and I wanted to achieve the impossible, obtain a job career in my field after graduating. And there was no way I’d be able to do this if I were to go another year without working. I also only had a $500 limit on my visa at the time and this girl likes to spend.

Scouring through many job boards, I found a posting for a Junior Graphic Designer position at an agency on the west end of Toronto. I was under qualified, hadn’t even graduated University yet, so my hopes weren’t high at all, but I really needed a job and through my recent volunteering and agency visits throughout the city I felt really motivated. So I fired off my résumé.

A few weeks later I met with the Creative Director of that company at a small Italian restaurant near by, had my interview, and was on my way. I had a great feeling about it, we got along really well, but I knew that the fact I still had one year of University ahead of me would probably have me out of the running of a full-time 9-5 position pretty dang quickly.

Much to my surprise, it didn’t. It got narrowed down to three candidates. Myself, a recent grad from the Advertising program at my school, and another person (who would end up being hired on a year later due to her great impression!). She ended up liking the recent grad and myself so much that she hired us both.

Uh, did I just get a full-time salary job, in my field, without even graduating University?! YUP! I did the even more impossible.

I was hired on full time for the summer, and come September I ended up working 3 days a week, while going to school 2 full days plus taking a night course. Fast forward to June and I had graduated with my Bachelor of Design (after a stressful school year), was now living in the trendy (and expensive) Liberty Village, and was back to full time hours.

Life was great, I got a puppy, was living in a high-rise in Toronto, worked at a fantastic company with people I had really grown to love and who had also grown to love me. I liked (most) of the work I was doing, was doing freelance on the side for some extra income, I was set for life. This would be my forever job!

Then September came. Summer was almost over and my cousin and I were having one of our wine-fueled life chats on the balcony overlooking the lake. Through that talk, and with the liquid courage of vino, I admitted that I didn’t want to live in Toronto anymore, and that I had been looking at jobs in Vancouver. I was feeling stuck. I was comfortably stuck, and that was the problem.

Being “comfortably” stuck doesn’t sound bad at all, right? I mean, it’s comfortable. I’m getting paid, I’m working in the field I went to school for, I can afford to live downtown Toronto. What’s wrong with that?

The problem I had with it was just what seemed so good about it, that I was comfortable. I was in this comfort zone of being 45 minutes away from my family, in the province I grew up in, in a country I had barely explored, and was halfway through my second year at a stable job that I wasn’t challenging myself at. This part is at no fault to the company, I believe that if you want to be challenged in a role, you have to seek the challenge. I wasn’t seeking that challenge, and because I was so comfortable with what I was doing, I didn’t want to seek the challenge.

Now you’re probably thinking “well then why didn’t you just challenge yourself at this job when you realized that’s what was missing?”. The answer to this is that I felt that at this current position, though I loved the company and the people, I was no longer growing as a person separate from my role. Being comfortable and feeling stuck in my environment wasn’t going to change just from me challenging myself more at work. Plus, the big ‘aha’ moment that made me realize I was stuck had happened 4 months prior (May 2015) when I made a last minute trip out to Jasper, Alberta and saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time.

I had lived such a “sheltered” life in the Greater Toronto Area. I had travelled, but mostly to tropical Caribbean places. I had little to no desire to be outdoors and explore, I wouldn’t have really cared to make an hour drive out of the city to take a hike. But when I flew out west for that first time and saw what I had been missing, that was my ‘aha’ moment.

I was so content with life before that moment that I had no desire for personal growth. I didn’t care enough to change anything about myself, to think about future goals, to get to know myself better, I was just kind of numb. I had a great group of friends and a lot of family surrounding me, and I was just content. I wasn’t appreciating them the way I do now. They were there, this was where I lived, this was how I am and that was all I ever knew.

So this is what I mean by being stuck in a comfort zone. Was the idea of dropping everything and moving across the country for a fresh start terrifying? Absolutely. Clearly it was because it wasn’t until April of 2016, a full year later, that I actually made the physical move. And this particular move wasn’t a long planned thing either. I had been thinking about moving to Vancouver, but had been incredibly hesitant due to the fact that it’s so dang expensive.

So when Rob and I were on the phone one night, and he said “Gord told me he’s moving out. So, wanna move to Edmonton?” I think I surprised the both of us when I said yes.

I gave it some serious thought (aka I slept on it), told my parents two days later, booked my flight for 3 weeks in advance and gave my notice to my job that week.

I had no plan other than to move in with Rob in the condo that I had found for him on Kijiji a year earlier (foreshadow much?) try to find a job, and go to the mountains as much as I can. That was it. Nothing lined up, my back up plan was to go back to waitressing if I couldn’t find a 9-5, and try and obtain more freelance clients. This was the boldest move I’ve ever made in my life.

So here we are again, me scouring job boards, this time in a city that I knew nothing about, and had no idea where anything was. I knew that you needed a car to live in Edmonton, unless you lived downtown, but since I was used to the 3 hour daily commute to Toronto I wasn’t too phased by that. I had two weeks until I was on a plane, and I was applying to literally every job that I felt aligned even a little bit with my skill set.

I applied to a few design jobs that were available, and then I applied to a Marketing Coordinator position at a Plumbing, Heating & Electrical distributor. Had I ever done anything marketing related? Nope. Did I take any marketing courses in university? Double nope. Did I even really understand what marketing was? Absolutely not. Honestly, I had gone through four years of Graphic Design schooling and I had no idea what the first step of marketing was. But did my extreme under-qualification stop me from applying? No way.

Besides the fact that I was desperate for a job, I was actually really interested in this position. It sounded fun (as fun as plumbing, heating and electrical distribution could be), and it sounded challenging. That’s what drew me to it.

The next day, I got my first call from a 780 area code. It was the Marketing Manager, and he wanted to discuss how we could go about the interview process with me living across the country. Score!

I’ll save you the step-by-step detailed description of each part, but after a phone interview, a personality test, a Skype interview, another personality test, and a final phone interview, I was offered the position of a Marketing Coordinator. Me, the girl in Ontario with no marketing or business experience or knowledge. It was the week before my flight, and I had landed a solid job that was a 5 minute drive from my new condo. I was over the moon.

The lesson I’m trying to share here is this: do not undervalue yourself. So what if you’re under-qualified for the job? If you don’t have enough experience, or you don’t fully understand what this new step would entail, don’t let that stop you for a second. Once you’re done school, that doesn’t mean you’re done learning. If you have any desire to move up in your field of interest, then there is a guarantee that you will be under-qualified for something. And that’s okay! If I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone and applied to either of these jobs because I had gone with my initial thought of “there’s no chance” then I wouldn’t be where I am now.

So where am I now? I’m a year into that same Marketing Coordinator position, and still learning every day. I’m living in a townhouse in the south end of Edmonton with my rock, best friend & #1 supporter Robert, and our incredibly spoiled French Bulldog Benson. I’m exploring the provinces of Alberta & British Columbia every chance that I get. I’m pushing my boundaries both physically and mentally. I’m making room for love, acceptance and gratitude in every day. I’m seeking out new things to try and learn. I’m living in the moment and accepting all that is. But most importantly, I’m challenging myself.

For those of you that know me, you may not of thought that this was why I moved across the country, and you may have thought I would’ve already moved back by now. For those of you who don’t know me, hey – hi – hello, and welcome to my blog. Posts like these and what I mentioned in the paragraph above are what you can expect here, along with posts about a new journey we’re about to embark on that I can’t announce quite yet, but hopefully soon! (No, it’s not a pregnancy journey, relax).

Thanks to those who have made it this far down the page, I can’t promise to keep my other posts super short because I do love to talk, but I can promise you that I’ll be doing my best to share my inspirations and experiences here with you all. Things won’t be getting political (simply because I know nothing about politics), and I’ll be doing my best to keep all negativity outta here (with the exception of the occasional rant I’m sure).

I hope that sharing this story with you all will inspire at least one of you to break out of your comfort zone and do what you want to do and not what you think you have to do, because I swear to you it’s an incredible journey.

If you enjoyed reading this, let me know! But also let a friend know. Share the words & share the love. You never know who it might help 🙂

Leaving your comfort zone


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  1. Sandra says:

    Very interesting cara…I really enjoyed it…never every give up on your dreams.

  2. Nancy Steger says:

    Awesome read, Cara.

  3. Adam says:

    Very inspiring! Thinking about moving to Kelowna myself. Your experience has pushed me one step closer 🙂

    • Cara O'Donnell says:

      Amazing to hear, Adam!! Absolutely do it. What I kept telling myself was if I hated it, I was only a flight away from home. You’ll never know until you try 🙂

  4. Anne ODonnell says:

    Nice job Cara….I’ll be staying tuned !!!

  5. Doug Craven says:

    A very interesting and detailed description of your courageous move! Keep pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, but don’t forget that peace and contentment are good too! Perhaps these are related ideas!

  6. Dronile says:

    Hi Cara. I stumbled upon this post via Pinterest and have to tell you how inspired I am! I’ve been thinking of making the big M-O-V-E for quite some time now and always psych myself out, but your post just made me close a tab I had open for a job here in my hometown to finally let go of the security/comfort zone I’ve been holding on to. Hope all is well!

    • Cara O'Donnell says:

      This makes me so happy to hear!! You can absolutely do it, it’s always ourselves that are the biggest road block in these situations. We just gotta believe we can, and we will get to exactly where we need to be. Best of luck! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. Jessi says:

    Loved your post thanks for sharing!! ????

  8. Rachel says:

    I love your central message that we should never undervalue ourselves. I think our self-doubt often limits our potential. We can all learn but we never get the chance to do so if we don’t take the risk

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I'm Cara O'Donnell, and utilizing my personalized Journey Home Method, I help growing families in Edmonton effortlessly transition from their first to forever home. I'm a mom, real estate investor, and licensed REALTOR® with eXp Realty. I can't wait to help you on your journey home! 



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