I have heard that people near the end of their lives often have regrets. What they regret is what surprises me. Those who are dying don’t nearly regret the things they had done as much as the things they hadn’t done. In spite of regretting their mess-ups in life, they regretted even more the things they never tried.
I heard statements such as, “I didn’t try new things,” “I didn’t take opportunities and chances,” “I always played it safe.”
I decided I didn’t want to have those kinds of regrets. I knew I was made for more than my job.
So, I let my heart dare to go on an adventure.
It’s not that my life was meaningless before I joined IDEAS – not by a long shot. I was a college instructor. I loved my state-side job and influencing lives, and I was good at it. However, there was more inside of me and more to life.
I made an intentional career move and explored lesser-tapped skills. Has life since then been meaningful? Yes! No doubt in my mind.
Has it been easy? No!
I chose to stretch both my comfort zone and my skills and to place my self-confidence into the limelight of foreign scrutiny. Sometimes I came up short and had to work hard to overcome loneliness, disappointments, and facing my limits and the limits of others.
Was I ever bored? No.
At times I wished for boredom, but in front of me I saw the faces of people who were ignored and unwanted – families struggling for basic survival – people who would never be allowed the luxury of boredom.
I got to help in ways I didn’t know I could. I learned to influence people in ways I never dreamed of, and they influenced me through their love, courage, and resilience and by broadening my worldview. I got to know individuals who made life richer.
I also learned to face a lot in myself, and I like the results. I have learned. . .
- That much of the world does not have the power to change their destiny. They must create happiness and attempt some kind of fulfillment. Success is measured in people encouraged.
- To practice patience and endurance.
- To ask more questions.
- To sit and listen instead of providing solutions.
- That it's not my ideas that will be believed and adopted, but theirs.
- To be hugged by and to hug those I never knew existed on this earth.
- To say “hello” in different languages and dialects, to different religious groups, genders, ages, and positions in family.
I experienced new food cultures and discovered new food favorites. My favorite meals are still those in refugee camps, sitting on the floor with friends, eating delicious refugee comfort food cooked from scratch in pots on the ground.
During my travels I was awed by natural and man-made wonders of the world, even more so by a little refugee girl who reached up to take my hand and give me her only toy.
Do I have regrets about these experiences? No.
As I prepare to develop and encourage training programs in South Sudan I’m looking forward to new adventures, new chances, new favorite foods, new people, new kids’ hands to hold, new friends, and new places to call “home.”
How do you want to live your life?
Allow yourself to be strong and courageous as you let your heart dare to go on an adventure.
About the Author: Christine is an IDEAS Associate and community health professional in multiple overseas locations, working among refugee communities. Read more about Christine's work: The Selfless Love of a Refugee Boy.