Tag Archives: growing up


On her blog, Undecided, Shannon Kelley states: “Choosing one thing means you’re killing the possibility of having the other. And when we’re raised on the idea that anything’s possible–and every option is available–we see choosing anything as settling. And, of course, it is–it’s settling for something less than everything.”

Which is true. Saying yes to one thing means saying to no to an unknown number of other things. This would not be a problem if we knew for sure what we wanted out of life. When you know what specific job, house, and friends you want it is easy to go and find them and make them yours.

But as Americans we have been told that we can have and be anything we want. So small children say they want to grow up and be soccer balls, birthday cakes, or hippopotamuses; and we laugh, say how cute, and know they will one day grow out of that belief. But these are logical decisions. They can be anything. No exclusions. We told them so. And then our young adults leave the confines of the education system and fall into depression or ADD because they can’t decide what job to focus on, what city to live in, and whether spending every day with the same group of people is worth their time.

These are worthwhile considerations. The world is a big place. There are lots of great ways to live.

I’ve been laughed at (in a kind-of, ‘oh how adorable’ sort of laugh) for wanting to do everything. I honest to God would enjoy a fulfilled, happy life as a bed and breakfast owner in Santa Fe, as a rancher in Montana, or as a shepherd in New Zealand. Those jobs would be AWESOME.

But you know, after I denied my humanity by dreaming my life away in high school, and after succumbing to anger at my humanity in college, and after the bargaining I did with the universe, and after the depression I found myself sucked into, I have no choice left but to accept. Accept the fact that we can’t do anything, be anything, have everything.

I have one life, one chance, one story. I can have a long story, yes. But only one. And while a choice to take a job, or rent a house, or even, gasp, get married means that there are other jobs, homes, or possible life endings that I cannot experience, I have to offer myself some grace and allow that possibility. As I’ve noted before, all we truly have in our lives is the opportunity to choose.

Yes, settling is a terrible word. However, living  life in the world of what-ifs and dreams is a worse fate. And keeping options open unfairly strings along all the bosses, girlfriends, landlords, boyfriends, and adventures that we can’t commit to.

You can’t have it all, but you can make a choice. And live the hell out of the choice you make.


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King Faisal Visitor of the Year

Yes that’s me. I was nominated King Faisal Visitor of the Year by my friends. (No real plaque on the wall, but still I felt honored). Oh yeah, what is King Faisal? That’s the local hospital, the one that is the most technologically advanced and with the closest to Western style care that you can find in Rwanda.

How did I come to such a high honor, as visitor of the year? Well, I spent a good four hours there with a roommate trying to find out what was wrong with her stomach. And then I spent two solid days there with a co-worker and another four days with him at other hospitals and calling doctors and clinics all over Kigali.

After the third day of sitting in the emergency room, the attending doctor claimed that I was going straight to heaven for selflessly spending so much time in the hospital. I only laughed, because I honestly cared about the people I was with, and deeply wanted to see them get good care.

But after sitting in the emergency room bed for three hours, only to be sent upstairs to the radiologists for another unknown wait, my co-worker apologized for the system and said he hoped I wasn’t horrified by the hospital. That is when I realized that I actually like hospitals.

Yeah, I like being in a hospital. Hospitals bring me comfort. Strange right?

Very few good things come out of hospital, but my childhood reflected the beauty of these sterile institutions. Waiting countless hours in waiting rooms filled with books, magazines, and fish tanks offered beautifully sterile environments for me to improve my reading abilities. Waiting rooms featuring anatomy textbooks and posters never lasted long, and always ended with immediate, negative test results: very good news. And when we had to visit several specialists on differing floors, my sister and I got to explore the more exciting parts of the hospital. I could spend a solid thirty minutes staring at the marble rollercoaster set up outside of the blood testing office. The tunnel connecting the emergency room to the specialists had an awesome purple glow coming from the neon lights fixed to the roof. And when we were fast enough to escape the next test, we could go stand in front of the nursery window and stare at all the tiny people sleeping in their incubators on the maternity floor.

Now I definitely can not be a doctor. I don’t want to be the one poking and prodding another poor child, and I can’t stomach everything else. But hospitals, I can do those.

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Remembrance, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Development, and Gorillas

So why are you in Rwanda? Well chances are, you are somehow involved in forgiveness, reconciliation, empowerment, development, or studying/visiting the gorillas. And when you are constantly in the midst of these types of discussion, and these efforts, it is easy to forget how far the country actually has come.

This is the official week of remembrance.  April 6, 1994 President Habyarimana’s flight from a peace process in Arusha, Tanzania was shot down and he was killed.  Rwanda was instantly launched into chaos by the popular hate radio stations calling for the extermination of the people behind the attack on their president.  What followed was 100 days of killings and man hunts that are normally reserved for horror films.  Rwandans say 1 million were dead by the time current president Paul Kagame and his rebel forces took control in July of 1994.  Western estimates generally put that number at 800,000, but either way, the number of dead given the number of days it took is astounding.

It is far too easy to criticize Rwandan society and progress from the inside of an American run NGO or an organization focused on reconciliation.  But 17 years ago, there was nothing here at all except for some corpses and ruined buildings.

This is why we remember. To know where we came from, in-order to have hope for where we are headed.

As an outsider with stores of academic knowledge on the “art of reconciliation”, I can easily see what else must be addressed, who needs to do and say what. This is a vital trait for a conflict mediator. But for one living with and (trying to) build(ing) relationships with the local population, I too must remember how far the people have come.

This society is traumatized. Undoubtedly so. I don’t want to think about what life was like here 17 years ago. Neither do they. But this week alone I have heard the Youth Minister, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission Against Genocide, and three pastors talk about the necessity of remembering the past.  Because, they all say, covering over the pain and memories, or ignoring them entirely, does not heal anything.  World Vision’s representative said “pain that is not transformed is transferred.” To prevent the continuation of hatred and bitterness, it is important to recognize the pain, address the pain, and transform it.

So yeah, the society is hurting. There is still so much I can point out that must be said and done. But if I can remember where they were 17 years ago, I can recognize the insane progress they’ve made. And if they can remember where they were 17 years ago, they might recall the intensity of the pain, and recognize what produced such pain, and ultimately understand how to avoid a repetition of the horrors created by underlying and unaddressed hatred.

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