I’ve ‘figured out’ or at least determined what ‘feels right’ right now in my quest for life and career and good work and what ‘success’ looks like for me, as a 21-year-old on the pursuit of her dreams.
So indulge me in my ramblings. Here’s what I think today:
I want to live in a (big) city.
I thrive in vibrant life circumstances — that’s what I love about living on a large public campus: options for entertainment.
Cities are full of people and moving dreams. That’s where collaboration happens, and I want to be a part of solution-making. While going off on my own homestead — or even staying secluded in a suburb — seems appealing right now (in this turbulent world politics time), I know I would get bored.
I want to take part in the action.
I’m ambitious plenty enough to pursue this. Even if it’s messy and complicated, pushing through to possibilities is absolutely vital in this juncture of environmental politics. I want to live in a city.
For starters, I’ve got to work with and among and in between.
Very recently, I’ve talked about starting my own company or mission or service line — but I haven’t a clue (or the capital, or the connections) to start this venture in 2018, upon graduation. And that’s okay!
Without the distractions of ‘full-time’ student life, I can ‘side hustle‘ my way to working for myself. Rather than (maybe) crash and (maybe) burn right away and get discouraged, I want to prioritize smart growth and opportunity. Let’s get this right.
And let’s not make this entirely all about myself.
I’m wrestling right now with the effectiveness of this approach. By relying on book-publishing and purchasing power of markets and people, aren’t you ‘using’ (exploiting?) the very system you’re criticizing for your own wealth? Who’s sitting down at the table to have the difficult conversations?
I understand completely (and am equally frustrated by) the backwards and un-helpful audience currently sitting at the table — believe me, I know.
But abandoning the table doesn’t make the table non-existent.
In fact, the unwavering audience you vehemently criticize continues the conversations without you!
We need both: fighters for systemic change and reformers of current institutions — the ‘silent’ movers-of-needles and the thankless, nameless pioneers of innovation.
Maybe, I can be (and appreciate the valor) of both.
I am not a specialist — nor do I think, frankly, I ever will be.
(This has been a super hard conclusion to ‘admit’!)
Perhaps that makes me unique. Perhaps that’s my doorway ‘in’ — the one that has no label.
In recent months, I’ve stated how I felt I should want to ‘settle down’ with the idea of one idea, namely that being sustainable agriculture — my ‘beat’ in combating climate change disruptors, so-to-speak.
But then I get excited about fisheries in the Mekong and and the planting of trees in the Congo — and I feel guilty for sharing my excitement in other ‘focus’ areas.
But maybe I don’t have just one focus. Maybe I have multiple.
Despite my ‘Bachelor of Specialized Studies’ degree program, I have ‘imposter syndrome‘ every day I think how I am so not specialized. I like getting excited about culture, collaboration, solutions, and spreading positive messages. Who’s supplying the foundation of hope we all desperately need right now?
Recently, I’m embracing my un-specialized approach to environmental causes. I view my climate action as a catalyst for climate change resilience. (There’s so much important work ahead!). Maybe I’m not meant to be stalwart like a tree, unceasing in same-action like the oceans, or even hot and fiery for change like a flame.
Perhaps I am like the sun, here to spread light on all the good ideas, movers and shakers of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and send a message of positivity.
This is not journalism. News continually uncovers and often creates its own cynicism. There’s a place for healthy critiques, I know, but there’s also a need for inspiration and attention to growth. Who’s going to support all of it: the wind, the rain, the floods, the food, the people, their land, their lives and their loves?
Lately, I’ve been telling myself: Nobody but you.
I still care about international issues …
… because climate change is ultimately the most international issue of this age!
Last year, after coming back from Cambodia, I chastised myself for idealizing the travel and practically condemned myself to domestic issues — partly so overwhelmed with my first international experience, partly out of guilt and shame of my stark affluence.
Who am I, I said, to tell other people what to do? Who am I, to abuse my wealth and opportunities to travel and be happy, when there’s so many unhappy people suffering, who cannot afford to leave?
I should just stay. I should just find a community and stay there. I should just ‘settle down’ and deny myself this obviously first-world privilege I’ve found myself indulging in, like a fantasy.
Deny. Deny. Deny.
This was supposed to work, and whet my appetite for staying small; but here I am, less than a year later, wholly unsatisfied with that proclamation (or personal-happiness death sentence). It works — being specialized, being fulfilled by one community — for some people. I envy their attachment to simplicity sometimes.
But, I’ve found: That’s not me.
Going back to my sun analogy, I am not confined by geographic or even climatic constraints, like pine trees and seashells, mountains even.
I am everywhere all the time. I am un-contained, always shining somewhere.
(That’s why I’ve got to get back to California — there’s sun there all the time!! How I miss my sunny companion of the soul — my sun, my soul!)
There’s a component of mindfulness that must be preserved in this dream, though. I know and am humbled way more than I was last year at this time, nervous and terrified and eager to fly halfway around the world. I learned a lot about privilege, and have continued to reflect on all that I have access to.
But instead of denying myself these opportunities available to me, I should take them. For those and fully aware of those who cannot in this life.
Mindfulness makes the difference.
I’ve denied myself pleasure — food, fun, friends — nearly my entire young adult life. I don’t want my quest for life and career to be so marked. Well, I could have done this… but I didn’t.
For what? Out of righteous piety? For up-ity ‘betterness’? Because I thought I shouldn’t, for no reason other than it might ‘look’ bad?
My Achilles is my ambition.
Tempering my ambition this year has been like clipping a lawn every time it grows a millimeter of an inch: Impossibly tiring, and nearly impossible to sustain.
My ambition (and my creativity) makes and breaks me. It is a part of who I am. I can use it to make a me-for-me dream come true, or I can use it for the ‘greater good’ and for the benefit of other people, if I try. Embracing the power of AND — and letting go of my self-denial — I can do everything I’ve ever dreamed of.
My new ‘guiding light’ mantra reads:
Strive globally. Think locally. Act mindfully.
Rather than fighting this stream of self-denial and conformity for control and achieving someone else’s dream, I’m letting the water in this river of life take me to my next destination.
I’m not going to look back in bitterness. I’m not going to look ahead in anxiety or anticipation.
I’m going to look around and see the good, and say: “How lucky we are to be alive right now!”
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