Life Begins Beyond Your Comfort Zone

David Proudlove – Head of Senior School

With the Year 12s last week on our doorstep, it seems fitting to reflect on their journey with us and what lies ahead. As I have been sorting through words and pictures for the final gathering I have been blessed with the opportunity to reminisce about the highs and lows of their cohort, and unsurprisingly the former hugely outnumber the latter.

Outward Bound was a truly memorable rite of passage for this group of youngsters, taking place in perfect weather conditions in the Clarence Valley. The experience was captured beautifully in a movie created by Holly Wickham, which was shared today as part of the Senior School assembly.

The final week is a time of speeches and when searching for inspiration to share and scrolling through words of wisdom from the likes of Winston Churchill, Barack Obama and Mahatma Gandhi I came across Craig Brewer? Who’s he?

It was a delightful accident. Craig is an American screenwriter and film director, most well-known as the co-writer and director of the 2011 remake of the 1984 toe-tapping classic, Footloose, now so dear to our school’s heart after the success of our centenary musical.

Craig recounted his time as a teenager in the mid-1980s constantly playing and dancing to the Footloose soundtrack on his walkman. He considered the remake as his rite of passage into the realms of successful American movie directors and screenwriters.

In the audience for the final showing of the SCOTS version of Footloose, I was amazed to count more than half of our Year 12s having either played a performing or behind-the-scenes role. Our Class of 2018 sang, spoke and strutted their way through literally barn storming song after song, scene after scene. While I doubt performing in Footloose quite qualifies as a rite of passage, transitioning from Year 12 into the world certainly does.

As I reflect on this transition I am again taken to a moment from Outward Bound, where our camp leader Forrest – and yes, everyone continually asked him to ‘Run, Forrest Run!’ – drew three concentric arcs with the toe of his hiking boot in the gravelly ground beside a track one lunchtime.

Each was approximately two metres apart spanning four to six metres in length – similar to a Wi-Fi symbol in fact. He asked our group of around a dozen to stand within the closest, shortest arc while thinking about things in life we enjoy, look forward to, or that make us feel completely at ease. No words were to be exchanged.

He then instructed us to move into the next arc while considering things or situations that can make us uneasy or slightly uncomfortable, even nervous, in both a positive and negative way.

Finally, we were asked to enter the third arc. This time to reflect on life experiences that had been nerve-racking, thrilling, exciting-but-sometimes-scary or challenging. Times when we had been unsure of our ability to cope or succeed; or perhaps moments of facing and conquering our fears. Again, no talking took place.

We then sat beside the arcs and were invited to share our thoughts about each section. Nothing intrusive, no pressure, just a respectful sharing of whatever anyone felt able to talk about. As we opened up a little – and sometimes a lot – about these sorts of moments, Forrest shared the philosophy behind the ‘game’. He walked to the second arc and faced out into the final zone.

“When you passed this line,” he said, “you moved beyond your personal comfort zone and out into the place where you truly begin living a full life and growing. Some people spend their entire lives doing all they are able to stay within the first arc, seeking easy, safe, comfortable, very predictable lives.  That may suit some, but few are likely to look back and say they have really had the best life they could if they never made conscious decisions, and sometimes it happens entirely by chance, to exist in the outer two zones. And even that outermost zone, while it may contain the worst possible experiences of your life, chances are it will also contain the very best.”

Wow. That was impressive for an impromptu after-lunch activity on an Outward Bound camp!

As we wish our Class of 2018 well for their futures, we hope they will grasp and enjoy the opportunities their character and skills will enable. No doubt they will draw on reserves of self-confidence founded upon a supportive family and an excellent, holistic education, to step outside of their comfort zone, embrace new opportunities and forge their own path.

All the very best for the future, Class of 2018.