Treading Gingerly: Safety in the Comfort Zone

Treading Gingerly: Safety in the Comfort Zone

Change is terrifying, excruciating and good.

There is safety in the familiar, a sense of comfort in the known, a protection from the pesky dangers of obscurity.

I have that at Penton, the parent company of EHS Today and IndustryWeek, where I’ve worked for the past 3 ½ years. I know what I’m doing; I know how to do it well; and I know who to count on.

But I’m leaving that safety net behind.

I’ve accepted a job as the transportation reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer – the daily newspaper in Northeast Ohio where I live. I’ve wanted to work there since I first dreamed of becoming a real journalist, and now is my chance.

The problem with once-in-a-lifetime chances is that you have to seize them. And change, it’s hard. Change is damn hard.

I’m excited about my new position, about covering news on the ground in my local community. Yet I break down in tears thinking about leaving my Penton friends and coworkers who have made the office a place I enjoy going, about shutting the door on all of those projects and initiatives of which I played a part, about change.

I am invested: in my company, in my coworkers and in our readers. And that makes leaving so excruciating.

When we commit fully to something, abandoning that which we’ve poured our heart souls into seems impossible. But sometimes, that’s exactly why we must do it.

We don’t learn from stasis; we grow from being pushed; we become better from challenges – in our safety cultures, in our workplaces, in our lives.

I want to be better; I want to see what I am capable of accomplishing.

I am leaving EHS Today, but I am not leaving safety, not entirely. Just like I’m not leaving my Penton team, not completely. The lessons I’ve learned – about safety, about wellness, about leadership – will stay with me, just as my friends here will remain a part of my life.

In my time here, I’ve called safety boring and uncool and challenged its very core. It never was an easy concept for me. In every column, I worked my way through the ideology, creating in the end a body of work that acts as a literary map of my grappling with the EHS world.

My coworkers fondly call me the “editor of chaos.” It’s because I’m unpredictable: at times seemingly dead serious and professional, while also swiveling in my chair, cracking jokes. I’m the person who understands the logical thing to do, but sometimes chooses to do the opposite, just to see what will happen.

I hope that those stories from my time here – written from the perspective of someone known to be a bit erratic – serve as a guide to those of you struggling to engage your peers with safety. We all think differently; we all experience differently; and safety means something different to each of us.

Remember: change is hard. And when we’ve always done something one way, choosing to do it another way – even it’s logical – isn’t easy; it can be downright terrifying.  We all find safety in our comfort zones.

Thank you all for reading, for teaching and for your kindness.

As my mom would say, “Be awful, awful careful.” But don’t forget to have fun, too. Find a way to balance the chaos with the order. Tread…Gingerly. 

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