Remember the movie Castaway? Such a fantastic movie!! Tom Hanks is just brilliant. I’ll admit I cry literal tears when Wilson floats away. Literal. Tears. That dang ball gets me every single time. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
There is a scene in the movie when Tom Hanks finally, finally after like four years, builds his little boat and is able to get over the reef that has been keeping him trapped on the island. You feel all the feels right along with him and Wilson. Yes! Success! A huge rush of adrenaline and excitement and the pure joy of accomplishment. I have cheered out loud at that part. VICTORY!!! And then there is this really short, poignant moment where the camera catches Tom’s face as he looks back at the island and although there is no dialogue, you can see it in his eyes.
That island, while keeping him trapped and alone for four years had also become his home. He knew how to live there. He knew where to find food and how to keep dry. He had learned how to build a fire there and how to be his own dentist. He had made a new friend in his volleyball and he had created a life there. Sure, he had lost like 72 lbs., hadn’t showered in approximately 1400 days, and he missed his girlfriend desperately. But the island had become comfortable. He knew basically what to expect of his life there.
And now? Now he had finally broken through the huge waves and come out on the other side and there was clearly no going back. And now he had no idea what to expect. He was floating in a huge ocean of nothing but blue skies and blue waves and he didn’t know what was coming. He could be rescued by a fisherman or captured by pirates. He could be eaten by Jaws or saved by Flipper. He could simply wither away on that little boat in the middle of sea and no one would ever know. And that was terrifying. The unknown is terrifying.
I’ve seen it time and time again in the lives of my clients and in my own life—the fear of the unknown that makes us want to cling to the comfortable. Even when it isn’t in our best interest. The fact is, the island was going to kill Tom eventually. He was living a brutal existence and really just barely surviving day after day after day. If the elements didn’t take him out, then the sheer loneliness might have. We are tribal creatures, and although volleyballs do make lovely companions from time to time, human interaction is vital to our mental health.
How often do we stick with something that is metaphorically or literally killing us because we are scared of what might happen outside of our comfort zone? We stay in a toxic relationship for years because we don’t know if we are up to living on our own. We stick with a job we hate because who is to say we won’t hate the next job even more. We continue to drink ourselves to sleep every night because we don’t think we can face life’s problems without the buffer of alcohol. We just stay put and tell ourselves that everything is okay because we don’t know what is on the other side of change.
I can’t tell you what is on the other side of change. I can’t promise that things will be hunky dory with butterflies and unicorns. Tom Hanks took the plunge and made it off the island and into the unknown and it sucked for quite a while. He lost Wilson (Literal. Tears.) He went through some massive storms at sea. He almost died of thirst. And then he was rescued—which is freaking awesome, right? But (SPOLIER ALERT!!) he found out that his beloved girlfriend had moved on, gotten married and had a baby. Gut punch.
Change isn’t easy. But it’s necessary. The fact of the matter is that the comfort zone of the island was killing Tom. He had to leave if he wanted any hope of a life. The life he found wasn’t the one he was expecting, but he was gifted the chance at creating a whole new life. A life enriched by what he had learned living alone on an island for four years and risking everything to escape. Have the courage to break free of what is killing you, no matter how comfortable it is. Only when you are free do you have the power to create a life that you want.
Just do me a favor and try not to lose any volleyballs. My heart can only take so much.
Lindsay Hyde, MPsych, CLC is a Certified Life Coach who empowers individuals to find their voice and move forward through life's various challenges. She specializes in coaching people through faith transitions, addiction, LGBTQ+ journeys, anxiety, self-esteem/self-confidence issues, healing after divorce, single parenting and re-building life following major transitions. Using a variety of techniques and methods she helps her clients dig deep to discover the answers within them to heal and grow in the direction they want.