I’m going back to school

It took 2 years, 3 jobs, and nearly 6 months of muted anticipation (I’ve been waiting a long time to say this!), but I have some exciting news: I am going back to school.

I graduated from Ohio University two years ago to date with a plan to continue my education in critical, feminist geographies — only to subsequently abandon this plan in a matter of a few months.

Somewhere in the midst of my travels to Tucson, Singapore, and San Francisco that summer, I started to unlearn a number of notions that I had clung to in the structured halls of school for nearly 18 years. Coming back home to Columbus was suddenly a painfully disorienting experience, one in which I had to reckon with my out-of-control eco-anxiety, my warped perception of identity, my eventual recognition of intense burnout, evaluating my own self-worth, my ego’s need to be seen as ‘smart,’ and my penchant for movement (i.e. escape). Not to mention finding myself amid a new, exciting, committed relationship, remaining optimistic through two periods of unemployment, undergoing a burst ovarian cyst, and enduring an emotionally stressful work experience that triggered months of additional anxiety.

In the midst of all of this turmoil and change, I struggled to find my place — my voice — in the global fight for environmental justice I had so rooted myself in at college. Suddenly, it became clear to me that writing about and analyzing our planetary disasters just wasn’t enough for me. Armed with the knowledge that I had earned, simply reporting on or cataloging in various online forums the state of the environmental crisis felt inadequate to me. I wanted more — I just didn’t know how, exactly.

So I kept listening to the soft, insistent voice inside me that said: ‘Choose joy.’ I stopped writing and reading depressing articles about climate change and political corruption. Instead, I took bike rides and made picnics and thought about how I wanted to change my own community. I explored different avenues for climate action, entertained various career hypotheses, and learned to love my neighborhood parks just as much as I love the coasts of California.

It was a grueling and draining process. Coming up with an ‘alternative’ plan for my post-grad life has been about the most challenging, multifaceted mental exercise I have ever had to tackle. But after evaluating my strengths, exploring a number of different career paths, and researching dozens of graduate programs, I am pleased to announce that I will be attending The Ohio State University this upcoming fall to earn a Masters in City and Regional Planning, where I will specialize in sustainability for generations of cities and communities to come.

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Once I found city planning as a profession — and met environmental and city planners creating amazing work — I couldn’t have been more excited to gain the skills needed to pursue this career. To me, it’s the perfect fit. I’ll be engaging with communities, understanding community needs from a grassroots level, and exercising strategic planning practices with local governments, businesses, and community groups to create sustainable solutions for a prosperous future for all. It’s an action-oriented profession, one that involves strengths in communication, the ability to think holistically, and creative design. And as we move into a more climate-changed world, we’ll need more city, state, and federal officials leading us all toward a sustainable future.

That’s where I want to come in, me and thousands of other visionaries leading our communities toward a sustainable future, designed for citizens, animal dwellers, and our supporting ecosystems. It may not be prove to be everything they say we need to do… but we can at least give it our best effort.

Published by Bethany N. Bella

I’m a storyteller and a geographer-at-heart, and I’m passionate about connecting people and places.

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