The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Katie Casson '23 RGLP Reflection: The Importance of Leaving the Comfort Zone

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Unlike what seems like many of my peers, the culture shock of going to college on the east coast terrified and challenged me but I have never once regretted the transition and I am excited to keep pushing myself into such situations. I am from a small town in Colorado and grew up in a rather intense religious bubble that became stifling and downright harmful to my young queer self. I had grown accustomed to this little bubble and although in many ways I did not quite fit in, I was comfortable and considered colleges close to my home. Deciding to go to school outside of this town and travel half-way across the country into a comparatively liberal, diverse, and more open campus environment was a really tricky adjustment. I said (and continue to say) ignorant or miseducated statements every day and have learned to ask questions and accept gentle guidance as I re-learn much of what I was taught growing up. When I first got to college these were more major such as the idea that as a queer person I am deserving of rights and respect and everyone around me despite religious, political, or cultural backgrounds is deserving of the same. At home this was unfortunately not the popular belief. When I talk with my friends from high school who married young and never chose to leave the little bubble, I can clearly see the power that expanding my mind to cultural diversity had on my life. 

One thing that I really got stuck in during my first 18 years was the lack of ambiguity on almost all problems. There was a deep seeded hatred of what was qualified as “the world” and even considering the ideas or beliefs in that category was sinful. This included much of science (such as evolution or vaccines) as well as political and social world views outside that which was commonly accepted. Ambiguity did not exist. All things were categorized as evil or not evil and subjectivity/relativity were not afforded to anything or anyone. I’ve been tirelessly working to deconstruct the mindset that people or ideas can be categorized as evil and much of the world exists in a sort of gray middle-ground because going forward as a productive member of society and hopefully an effective leader I must be able to live within such a middle ground. There will be things I cannot answer and ideas I cannot fully dismiss or fully accept, and I want to continue to be comfortable in such an unnatural state. 

Written by Katie Casson, a member of the Spring 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences