I grew up in a small town in Woodstock, New Brunswick; I lived in several cities for a while but ended up moving back to rural New Brunswick on Grand Manan Island.
Growing up in a rural area, has so many benefits but also has its challenges. One of those challenges can be connecting your dreams, aspirations and career to a global level. It’s difficult because you’re not always pushed to think big, most people in rural areas are comfortable settling for a career in their small town and that is enough for them. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that but for people who have bigger dreams, it’s sometimes difficult to find people to share this with. There seemed to be a small number of people who were open to talking about global dreams and plans in my experience.
I felt very out of place for most of my life, I felt like I had to internalize a lot of my dreams for my future, as I was worried about being made fun of. There were times I allowed myself to be vulnerable and share some of my ideas and it was never received in the ways that I had hoped. It wasn’t because they didn’t want to support me, I think it was just really difficult for them to see my vision.
For me, I always knew I wouldn’t be content with settling for a “normal good paying job”. I had to be doing what I loved and living my dream. I always had this inner voice and creativity that would not allow me to follow the norm. I wanted to do more, I wanted to push myself, I never wanted to feel like I was settling, I wanted to travel, and I wanted to wake up every day loving what I do.
My journey has been hard because sometimes I allowed others opinions to sway me away from my dream at times. Sometimes I allowed my mind to cause me to stay stagnant. I lost confidence in myself many times. However, the important thing is even through the struggles, you don’t have to give up.
There are most likely many rural women out there questioning if they’re good enough, smart enough, talented, or resourceful enough to make global change and my answer to you is YES YOU ARE. You’re more than enough.
My advice is whatever your global dream is, whether it’s volunteering, working, building your own NGO, just go for it. We can always make up excuses to why we shouldn’t do something, like I don’t have enough money, it’s not the right time, I’m not good enough, I might fail, what if I don’t like it and the excuses are endless. But it’s better to go for something, even if you fail than to always wonder what could have been. Even when we make mistakes in our life, that’s usually when the biggest and best lessons come to our life. I know the financial cost is always a huge barrier to global work.
I know that in order to travel or start a business, it takes money. However, there are things you can do (apply for grants, scholarships, fundraisers etc.) to help you get what you want if you can’t afford it. To be honest, when I applied for my India trip, I didn’t have the funds to afford this trip but I chose to no longer let that hold me back. I knew if I wanted it bad enough I would save enough and find a way to make it work.
I paid the initial deposit to volunteer, not everything had to be paid upfront, I had about four months to pay everything I needed. So I chipped away at it, but like I said, when you want something you can make it happen. I saved every pay cheque, I applied for scholarships, and I fundraised. I was no longer going to allow that to be an excuse to avoid volunteer abroad.
I knew that no amount of money would give me the knowledge and self-growth I would get from India. Even though it was one of the scariest decisions of my life, not knowing if I would have enough money to pay for it, or what would happen there. I did it and it was the best decision of my life.
While I was in India, all the things that I thought were “problems” in my life, issues that had been dominating in my head over the last year, solved themselves. I allowed myself for an entire month to meditate, practice Yoga, read, journal, and self-reflect. All of a sudden, all of the answers I had been searching for over the past year and a half, fell on my lap.
I never would have expected that to happen. One of those big answers was a career decision. When I returned home, I decided I would open up my own business on Grand Manan. Opening up my own business had been my dream for so long, but for the most part I kept that to myself because I was worried about failing or what others would think. But when I came home from India, I didn’t care what anyone thought anymore, I gained a whole new confidence. I knew that those who mattered in my life would support me. I realized the worst that could happen, was that I would fail. But I was okay with that because I would never be left wondering what if. If I failed, I would learn from my mistakes and grow.
I’m currently working on launching my business in a few months and I don’t think I have ever been so happy and excited. I’m finally getting to do what I always wanted. I think most of us have some sort of dream that we wish to accomplish but we allow so many things to get in the way of this. I understand that it’s not always super easy to achieve your dream, it may not happen overnight, there may be a lot of hoops you have to jump through to get there. But I promise you that it is worth the wait, every single tear and late night you’ve spent thinking about it.
So my advice to other women in rural areas is, don’t let small minded people stop you from reaching your dream. If you have a global vision, you are smart enough, you are talented enough and you are resourceful enough to make this happen.
There are tons of mentors and organizations around the world looking for ambitious people to join them on their missions. Do your research, I promise that there is financial support or supportive people out there who will help you navigate this new path you may embark on. If you want to travel, volunteer or work abroad but nobody supports you, do it anyways. You will never regret it.
If you have a big dream, there will be people who will try to stop you from reaching it, people who will not believe in you, people who will be jealous of you but do not allow that to slow down your momentum. Keep pushing, and don’t give up if you reach a dead end. Move on, learn from it and keep going because the day that you wake up and can say, “I did it” will be the best feeling you ever had. Also, do not allow your age to determine your ability to chase your dream. Do not say, “I’m too old to do that”, remember Shoba, she is sixty-eight years old, hasn’t flown in over forty years, is travelling alone, leaving her son and the comfort of her home to go chase her dream. Anyone can do it.
Another key component that I recommend to people in rural areas is start making connections, life becomes much easier for you when you do. Ever since I graduated high school, I was getting involved in random projects, applying for programs, changing fields, and making connections all over the place. Most times, when I applied for things, I had NO idea how much I would learn or get out of it.
When I applied for the Global HERizons scholarship, I had no idea how awesome of an experience it would be having two great mentors. For one, in rural areas, we have little resources, so to be connected to someone who supports you and sees your vision makes you feel so much more supported.
Secondly, they have connections and knowledge that you don’t. Don’t try to do everything yourself because it’s exhausting and the reality is you don’t know everything. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, seek people’s advice, it will only help you in the long run.
When we’re working on a project, it’s not always clear to us what sort of issues or challenges may come up but someone else may be able to give you helpful insights and input. I’ve had many mentors in my life, who have helped me get to where I am today and they know who they are.
Also the benefits of getting out there is these people and professionals you meet along the way will not forget your passion. Most people who know me, know how passionate I am about my line of work and my vision. They know nothing is going to stop me from achieving it, even if I fail a million times on the way. These people will call on you, refer you or reach out to you when they think you could be helpful with a service or if something might interest you. Take time to really get to know people in your life who share the same vision, you never know what you can accomplish. Last year, I received a really cool job from that.
When I moved to Grand Manan, there were no social work jobs, so I basically created my own job. A big part of that was starting a high school self-esteem program, I had to get quite creative with this project. I had guest speakers come and I was very vocal on social media about what I was doing. That following summer, I got a message from a teacher and researcher at NBCC in St. Andrews who had been watching my social media about this teen program I started. They had been given a huge three-year grant to research how a peer-mentoring self-esteem and pro-social skill project could impact the teens in rural Charlotte County schools. They asked me if I would like to be the project coordinator for the final year of it.
I had NO idea that just running a self-esteem program on Grand Manan would lead to me getting an awesome research contract job for a year. I got to travel all over Charlotte County to go teach mental health and self-esteem classes in the schools to young teen girls. It was so amazing. You never know when your work, volunteering, and projects can lead to something you never imagined. So get involved in things you like and maybe even things you don’t like. You’d be surprised how much you get out of learning skills you never had any interest in.