"Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." Brian Tracy
I have learned, trying something new almost always means getting out of my comfort zone.
I continued to ponder the risky challenge of volunteering to be a participant in the ‘healthy aging’ study that I wrote about last week. If I want to live a whole human life, and I want to continue to take on new challenges and I want to grow and motivate others to do the same …. Well then, I need to get out of my comfort zone. Right? So, I volunteered to be a lab rate.
As I drove to the University psychology lab, I felt pretty vulnerable and uncertain. I knew they were going to be doing an EEG on my brain, but what they were going to be measuring and learning about me and my thinking…. I just was not sure. These people were strangers to me…and I feel like my brain information is kind of private. It reminded me of what Lana Turner said about speaking in public; “It’s like standing naked in front of people and turning around very slowly so they can see every one of your flaws.” And I’m here to tell you; my brain does have flaws.
I was greeted at the lab by Amelia. She asked me to fill out a survey and rate how I was feeling on a scale of 1-5. It included emotions like uneasy, terrified, uncertain, excited, proud, ashamed, self-confident, pathetic, happy, bored, exhausted.
Then they took me to what looked like a doctor's examining room. There they read me my rights…” You can ask us to stop at any time. You can leave at any time. You can refuse to answer any questions at any time. You can withdraw from the study at any time.” Hmmm, I was feeling awkward and uncomfortable. I wondered... do people ever just bolt out of here?
Before we begin with the procedure, Amelia said, I need to let you know that once we connect the wires to your head; it is rather time consuming to unhook them. So, if you think you might need to use the bathroom in the next three hours…I suggest you go now.”
Was she kidding????
I had already noticed a gurgling in my stomach, like that one time when I was on an airplane with 200 people, and they told us halfway through the four-hour flight that only one of the five restrooms was working. Yep…to the restroom.
Back in my examining room a psychology professor named Austin had joined Amelia and I. Austin was busy getting all the equipment lined up. He reached over and picked up a long syringe and held it up to the light while Amelia pulled out something that resembled an extra small swimming cap with a strap, and lots of holes in it. After pushing the cap over my skull, they both began squirting out a cold icky gel into each of the holes, and around parts of my face. This evidently helped them to attach the special wires and be able to monitor my brain.
If lighting would have struck right, then; there would have been nothing left of me. And at that moment I was feeling like that might not be such a bad thing.
After about 23 minutes of poking and prodding, Amelia said to Austin. “We only have 7 more minutes to finish this prep work.” I asked what happened if they weren’t finished in 7 minutes. Austin stopped what he was doing, looked me straight in the eyes and spoke very seriously, “After that Karen, your hair will catch on fire and your head will explode.” (Nothing like a professor in a lab jacket, who thinks he’s a comedian to help one feel relaxed)
Once they completed the brain hook-up, they turned me around in my chair so I could see the computer screen behind me, which had already begun measuring my brain waves. Amelia asked me to clinch my jaws (I was already doing that), blink my eyes, and lick my lips. It was interesting to see how just those slight movements interfered with measuring my brain waves. "So, you can see," said Austin making last minutes adjustments, “It’s important for you to remain as still as possible for the duration of the 2 1/2 hours of testing.”
I couldn't help but think that maybe my enthusiasm for taking on new challenges in order to live a whole human life was taking me just a bit too far out of my comfort zone!
Finally, the testing was over. I was warned not to talk to anyone about the specifics of the testing questions…so I’m sorry to say I just can’t tell you much more about the top-secret, high-level questions they asked me, or they will have to kill you.
After disconnecting me and unplugging my wires and leaving me with an enormous gob of gel in my hair; they handed me yet another ‘emotional feeling’ survey to fill out. Need I go into detail on my responses!
Afterwards I was reminded that for the following two weeks I would be attending five – 3-hour sessions with other volunteer participants. Then, we would individually return to the lab for another three-hour marathon brain testing session in which they would do a comparison.
On my way home I had to remind myself that this healthy aging research study I had volunteered for was something I wanted to learn more about So I needed to stay open and positive and learn all I could.
As I walked in the door, my husband stood anxiously waiting to hear all about my experience. He openly stared at my appearance. “Karen, why does your hair look like that? Did you know that it is all globed up with sticky stuff?”
I responded dryly, “It’s brain gel.”
“Oh...brain gel...hmmm. So, tell me, “He spoke cautiously. "How was it? Did you pass?” I told him that I had not been given my results.
He seemed concerned.” Did they screw up your brain? If they did, then you need to go back and tell them to fix it!”
“Right,” I said, trying to put a smile on my face as I headed upstairs to wash my hair.