The other day, as I walked through the university buildings, I noticed a hand-painted poster declaring "Volunteer in RWANDA!" My first thought was of a certain movie, and war, and poor African countries, and I thought, "Not me."
Later that week, as I walked past that poster again, I questioned my initial reaction. If I didn't have a husband and two kids, that would be a great opportunity to learn more about a part of the world I know very little. To challenge my own assumptions and widen my horizons.
As I thought about that, and thought back to my first four years in university, I regretted the opportunities I missed. I wouldn't have been any more likely to volunteer in Rwanda six or eight years ago. In fact, one summer in university I had the chance to work in a mountain resort town. An acquantance said she'd give me a recommendation and we could spend the summer hiking together. I didn't think my dad would let me go, so I never even tried, though it sounded intriguing. Not intriguing enough to fight for, I guess.
As I look back on my life so far, I feel like the one big thing I've done was to go to Australia (and there were opportunities I wasted there as well, because I was too timid). Sometimes I'm jealous of my husband—he's been to Scotland and Rome and Texas and has covered most of Canada by bus. I've seen four provinces and have only left Canada twice.
If I could go back to my younger self, I would tell her to step out of her comfort zone a bit more. Too often, I let excuses get in the way of something I could have done. But I can't change the past, so instead of dwelling on that, what can I learn about myself for the future?
Even now, I make excuses—"I have two little girls so I can't do ______." Instead of saying I can't go bike riding, I can put them in the trailer and take them with me (it's just a better workout). Instead of saying I can't scrapbook, I can let my toddler "help" with it. And instead of looking at the things I can't do with them, I could find other things that I can do with them.
It comes down to a matter of perspective—looking at possibilities instead of the impossible. So may posters like the one about Rwanda remind me to think about those things that I can do.