At the crossroads: An environmental studies scholar on the precipice of graduation

I’m admittedly a little teary-eyed during my final move-in weekend before the last of my eight semesters is to dawn.

Where did the time go?

I’ve been blogging the entirety of my college career – a feat I never honestly thought I could accomplish, but here we are, 90 blog posts later. (Thanks for sticking around, dear reader.)

thank you for following my journey, thus far.  I promise: it’s only going to get better from here on out. August 18, 2015

Moving back into Athens for the final go-around, I feel I have more questions than answers, compared to when I first started here eager, young and restless as a budding environmental journalist. Perhaps that’s the ultimate paradox of life: when you ‘should’ know, you don’t. Not really.

I’m hungry for something beyond my reach. I yearn for answers I cannot seek, for peace I cannot find. For happiness I forgot to feel.  January 20, 2015

But I have learned and grown a lot as an environmental studies scholar and as a human being, wholly capable of compassion and forgiveness I might add. I’ve met a whole host of friends both near and fartraveled the world, broke a few bones and bruised my pride a number of times.

My focus has always been forward, and I don’t care to distract myself with teenage indulgences. But, here I am, trying to distance myself from the pack, and I have lost that sense of global community. No longer do I think of the collective work – all the cogs and wheels that drive this engine towards global good – but only of the work I can one day do myself. … 

Because this world isn’t really my world. It’s our world.  January 15, 2016

I’ve kept some consistency and radically changed up my worldview. I’ve lived and loved (myself) in California. I’ve been humbled that ‘halfway around the world’ isn’t really so far away after all. I’ve been scared at what lies ahead – I still am, scared. And unsure, unsettled, unsatisfied.

But perhaps most importantly, I’ve emerged from the backroom to the front of the stage in these last 4 years.

I am no longer ashamed at what I know. I am no longer petrified by who I was, who I am, and who I’m becoming. I am no longer easily swayed by outside opinions, stirred by selfish taunts, or humiliated by the wrong sense of humor.

I am defiant, confident, unwavering in my passion, and curious about my future (even if I don’t know exactly what it all means yet).

Through all of the semesters, credit hours and courses of my undergraduate college career, I am surprised the core of me has not changed as much as my surroundings and school studies have: a writer and a life-learner passionate about promoting environmental consciousness.

Knowledge and learning have always excited me, but they’re also my two-fold source of vanity. …

And this year, I would like to affirm to myself that I am more than just the books on my shelf. I am more than all of the knowledge I have learned in the unyielding construct our society has crafted for knowledge acquisition. I am more than the writers I read, the stories I hear, the places that I would someday like to visit.

I am my own story, and I’m still writing my own way out.

  December 17, 2016

I once called my college years as the “years of endless growth and opportunity.” Re-reading and reflecting on my words from these last 4 years, I realize this prophecy has come to pass.

Today. This hour, this moment. This. This is all I have. This is what I have to give, who I have to spend my time with. There is nothing else that matters.  October 20, 2016

In summary, what I’ve learned in my 4 years as an environmental studies scholar:

  • Basic needs (food, freshwater, land) are not/will not be met with impending climate change and environmental destruction
  • The Earth and her people are cohabitants, not mortal enemies or aloof neighbors (the ‘environment’ is and will always be you!)
  • The carbon in the atmosphere is the highest it’s ever been in human-recorded history (and rising still, feedback loop)
  • Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (and is being released as global warming occurs)
  • Human civilization, and the advent of agriculture, was created on the back of a stable climate
  • Coastal communities around the globe are already experiencing the consequences of coral reef bleaching (carbonized oceans), rising sea levels (melting glaciers), and depleted fisheries (overconsumption of resources/species die-off)
  • Less than 1 percent of all water on Earth is fresh and accessible for consumption
  • Pollination by animal pollinators accounts for 1/3 of all food eaten the world over
  • Food DISTRIBUTION and ACCESS is more important than food production
  • Trees and soil are natural carbon sequesters, but not (importantly) carbon eliminators
  • Healthy oceans sustain livelihoods of millions (of people and other life forms)
  • There is no compulsory carbon tax for automobile driving and air travel
  • We are depleting water reserves at a faster rate than they are (or can be) replenishing naturally
  • Minority and marginalized communities are the ‘dumping grounds’ for environmental toxins and pollutants
  • Plastic debris in oceans worldwide can be attributed to single-use plastics

And that’s just the ‘short’ list of what I’ve recorded in the last 6 months.

I said at the end of last year that my desires for perfection, control, and all-knowingness must be surrendered to the universe. Right now, on the precipice of graduation (15 more weeks of classes, with no immediate plans for graduate school), I am at a crossroads.

The culmination of my environmental studies knowledge is collected in the bullets above, but my heart and head are out wandering again. (I always seem to sport a ‘Gone Fishing’ sign — which should really say ‘Gone Dreaming’).

I don’t know where this knowledge is leading me. I’m at the point of the road where a decision of action must be made. I want to turn away from the books, away from the classroom, and turn my knowledge into solutions, healing, or resolve.

But which way do I turn?

Your life path will change.  It is inevitable.  There will be some event –– an accident, a mistake, a mishap, an interview, an encounter –– that will cause your world to flip.  And you will need to embrace that alteration if you want to have the best life possible.   -August 18, 2015

I guess that’s what the next 15 weeks are for.

So, here’s to: figuring out the next move; staying true to myself; writing it out; listening to advice; and listening to my heart (and head).

-bnb

One Comment

  1. Debi & Don Durbin says:

    Hi Bethany,

    You have become an awesome lady with a heart of gold. You will know what your next step is when you get there. Enjoy the last 15 weeks and don’t sweat the small stuff. The world is endless with opportunities.

    HUGS!! Debi

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