my lifelong connection to the natural world

I had to write an environmental autobiography for my religious and environmental views class. I didn’t edit this too much, I kinda just cranked it out in an hour, but I feel oddly proud of it. I am so happy with my life as a whole and how it has contributed to the person I currently am. I also thought the idea of an environmental autobiography, where you write how your life has been influenced by the environment, was really interesting and I wanted to share it with all of you. Here she blows:

For as long as I can remember, I have felt very close with the earth. I usually describe this connection as spiritual, even though I am not very religious myself. Being outdoors makes me feel so small and a part of something much more significant. It feels like I understand this feeling very well, but I still struggle to explain it with words. I am just so impressed by life, and nothing else really matters to me. I have always been passionate about animals and the environment. I grew up having what I now know is climate anxiety, feeling like I want to save the environment but am ultimately helpless against the actions of larger corporations. I would hang up ‘Save Endangered Species’ posters around my neighborhood. I feel like this also reflects my personal identity as an activist. I find a lot of joy in using my life to make the world a better place. I didn’t know that I could even major in the environment until I was about 14, but it was very empowering to know that I could dedicate my life to this passion.  

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and would frequently go to Hocking Hills or surrounding metro parks to hike with my family. I think my mom encouraged us to get outside as a form of exercise, but it helped form this personal connection to the earth. We would frequently take our dogs on walks at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, which has bison in a pasture. I was so impressed by these animals. They are so big and powerful yet peaceful. Coming around the trail corner to see them in their pasture also felt so magical to me. The only animals I ever really saw in their natural setting were deer or squirrels, which are so common that I don’t really even notice them. However, the bison were so rare and interesting. I really like this way of seeing animals. Going to the zoo, and seeing unaware children pound on the glass, has always made me feel a little bit sad. I think such conservation methods are necessary, but I can’t help but be reminded of the harmful actions of humans that have required such conservation. 

I also grew up going to my grandparent’s property in Pennsylvania. My grandfather was really into hunting and so he owned a lot of land to hunt on. I don’t really like hunting, but I respect it more than the current animal agriculture practices in our country. We would always go to their house for thanksgiving, and I have such fond memories connecting with members of my family during hikes around the property. My cousins and I liked to build forts in the woods, which was such a great experience. Nature always inspires me; whether it be wanting to photograph a bird or wanting to build a fort, there is always something new to explore. I feel like so many kids do not have consistent access to greenspace, which could inhibit their creativity. My grandparents no longer own this property, but my family still gathers in their hometown every thanksgiving (in a rented house) where we enjoy similar activities out in nature.

My mom is a veterinarian, who was always bringing rescue animals into our house during my childhood for us to foster or adopt. The most notable include a chinchilla, parrot, and 3 rats. At the time, I thought it was comical and that my mom was slightly crazy for filling our house with all of these animals. This may hold some truth still but in reality, my mom felt a deep need to care for living creatures which she instilled in my sister and me. I am so grateful for all of these pets. They have supported me in ways that I feel like other people could never find the words for. When my parents were getting divorced, and I felt like I was completely alone, my cat, Meow, was there to lay on my lap and comfort me with his purrs. Something about connecting with an animal is so spiritual to me, and I feel like our society as a whole does not fully understand this yet. I grew up not noticing the difference between “pets” and “food”. I looked at Meow and at cows off of the road, and recognized I only cared more for one because of the relationship built, not because of their species. I officially became a vegetarian at eight years old, and only learned more about the environmental ethics and impact of animal agriculture. I believe my mom helped paved the way for my environmentalism by showing me the importance and value of caring for living creatures. My love and respect for animals taught me that I must be a voice for the voiceless.

I also think my education influenced my love and passion for nature. I attended a Catholic Montessori school in Columbus from kindergarten to eighth grade, called St. Joseph Montessori School. This was not a traditional Catholic school by any means, but I am so grateful for this entire experience. This school is incredibly open minded and has made me a more accepting and thoughtful person. There was a large emphasis on exploring different spiritualities and being stewards of nature to protect creation. I remember working in the school’s garden and feeling very appreciative of the natural world. I also have a distinct memory of running to put a spider outside before anyone in my classroom would kill it, which further shows my care for voiceless creatures. My teachers at this school were mostly environmentalists who educated me about climate change and recycling from a young age. We had a yearly science fair, where I did my project on recycling one year. This project actually motivated some of my family members to consume less and start recycling. I really liked the feeling of being able to cause what I saw as positive change. This was one of my first experiences causing a “ripple effect” in positive environmental behavior, which I hope to have many more of in my future career.

I also attended Bishop Ready High School, a Catholic high school on the west side of Columbus. This experience provided me with more knowledge about how the Catholic church views the environment. Like discussed in this class, I think I had assumed that Catholicism was largely against the environment. I was very surprised to learn about Pope Francis’ views in Laudato si’ and the encouragement for believers to be environmental stewards of creation. I feel like I definitely went through this period of being anti-religion. I thought people could only care for the environment if they were recognizing the inherent value that the environment has. I am now extremely grateful and excited to hear about everyone’s individual relationship to the environment. I wish I was a little more open minded during my high school experience so I could have asked more direct questions related to religion and environmental sustainability, but I am excited for the current opportunity to do so with this class.

I felt like this environmental autobiography was a bit all over the place, but I feel like it really speaks to how I have felt connected to nature throughout my whole life. It is so confusing to me how other people do not have the same passion for nature, and it is especially difficult to understand when they do not feel the same motivation to protect the earth or speak up against pressing environmental issues. I hope to improve environmental education campaigns in my future career to hopefully encourage more environmental activism in our society.

If you made it here, thanks so much for reading this!! I appreciate you and would love to hear how you feel connected to the earth!

Love, Olivia

a life update

I have been gone for what feels like a few days or several decades. The passing of time during a global pandemic is wild. Thank you so much to everyone who has reached out to tell me they miss my posts. There were only a few of you, but that really meant so much to me. This project has been a really good outlet for me, and I don’t feel like I’m doing this for anyone else other than myself, but it is so reassuring to know that others actually care. Also shout out to all of the spam comments from robots(?), they have been making me laugh.

About a month ago I wanted to write a post about new things in my life, but those are far from new now, so I will just briefly catch you up. I started volunteering weekly at a local community garden with one of my best friends and it was such an enjoyable experience. I typically don’t see her that frequently, so it was a nice change of pace. Being outdoors and doing physical labor also felt so nice. I had hardly been doing anything for months before, so it was so rewarding to make an impact on the physical earth. Gardening is something that I don’t love during the actual process, but it makes me feel so good after. I was a volunteer at a similar community garden during my freshman year of college and it introduced me to a new picture of sustainability and very interesting people.

Around the same time that I started volunteering, I started a lil tie-dye business. It has been so much fun, making things and connecting with people, and I am just so excited. I am still figuring things out which has been a really interesting business learning experience that has given me a new appreciation for small businesses and handmade goods. I really expected like 2 people to be interested, so thank you so much to everyone that has been supporting me! My new favorite thing is to make jokes about the tie-dye business like it is the stock market.

Finally, probably in late June, a little kitten ran out of the woods into our dog’s mouth and our hearts. He literally came out of nowhere and is such a basic brown tabby, but I don’t know how I lived without him. So yeah, that’s been my life. I am currently feeling very inspired and optimistic about writing so expect to hear from me soon. I just finished up my summer classes, which were way more work than I was expecting, but it feels good to be done and in my two weeks of pure summer.

Love, Olivia

tick city, b****

I was also considering titling this “tick city by me (feat. tyga)”, but I thought I would keep it short and sweet.

I love nature, I love pretty views, and I love my boyfriend. So when Daniel, my boyfriend, and I made plans to watch the sunset at a nearby park, I thought nothing could go wrong. However, I had the worst experience with ticks that I have ever had.

You might be thinking it’s strange that I have past experiences with ticks. You might’ve never even seen one, but they are an old enemy of mine. Ticks love me. I probably find one crawling on me at least once every 3 months. Just when I start to feel at ease again, I feel the familiar pinch or tickle up my leg and I know that no time or place can be truly tick free. I may be used to finding them on me, but I am not used to it all. I still freak out and want to crawl out of my own skin for at least an hour after the encounter.

I am ranting about ticks yet again though. We were at the park, having a nice time. When I think a mosquito is on my leg, I playfully swat it away. Oh no, no mosquito was present. They were run out of town by the five ticks I see crawling up my leg. I don’t even know what to do at this point, I keep throwing them off of me but just see more. I start to freeze as Daniel is trying to calm me down but then I realize that I need to escape tick city. I just run away, even as Daniel reasons that I am just running back into where the ticks jumped on me.

We were probably like a mile into this trail, a nice walk but not a distance I want to run frantically away from ticks. I don’t really swear, but I was only uttering swears on this run. My brain could not comprehend what was happening and how that many ticks got on me. The trail was surrounded by tall grasses, but we were walking in the middle on a mowed grass path that I considered a safe zone. During this frantic run, I kept stopping to throw more ticks off of me. They knew we were coming, and they were out for blood. When we got back to the car, we both took off our shoes and socks and just found more ticks!! Where did they come from? Where did they go? Where did you come from, Cotton-Eye Joe?

This experience was very startling but writing about it in this way has given me some much-needed comedic relief. I hope this made you smile, and I hope you have learned to never go outside again because ticks will relentlessly attack you.

the playlist of a hype beast who loves yoga

I love making spotify playlists. I made a playlist of some of my favorite songs that hype me up but in a very chill way. I don’t see myself like going crazy or stupid to these songs but I really enjoy listening to them while driving or doing homework. They are more than lofi beats but less than typical pump up music. I don’t know if that makes sense, but maybe you will listen and understand the feeling of straight up vibing I’m trying to describe.

I feel like summer 2020 is very different. Some or all of your plans might be cancelled and you might be looking for new ways to make your summer memorable while practicing reasonable social distancing measures. I encourage all of you to balance this fun and time for yourself with taking care of the less privileged in our society by signing petitions, protesting, and having conversations about racism with your families. Black lives matter today and every day.

the self-blame game

I am currently taking a 6-week intro to psychology class and am on my way to becoming an expert. Just kidding, so take my take on these psychological concepts with a grain of salt. This week’s lecture covered attribution and how people are likely to explain something by blaming the individual or the situation. It was interesting to me because my professors noted how typically when observing another person, you just blame them for any bad things they may have done. If someone cuts you off while driving, you just think that person is a jerk without thinking too deeply as to what might have been going on in their car. However, if you are thinking about yourself and your shortcomings, you are more likely to blame the situation you were in. If you fail a test, you might blame the teaching methods over your own studying habits.

I am not saying I am some psychological exception, and I know this is closely linked to anxiety, but I do have a tendency to blame myself for my own actions AND the actions of others. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I will probably think they are a jerk but will also spend the rest of the drive criticizing my own driving habits and thinking of ways that I could have been better prepared. If I fail a test, even if it was the result of a teaching shortcoming, I will blame myself for not overcoming it. I wouldn’t say I’m “hard” on myself, it more so feels like I just have an inner voice that I am constantly fighting. These self-blaming thoughts feel more intrusive and driven by anxiety than my actual personal voice. I don’t know if these thoughts are controllable, but I do think I need to work on building up my positive inner monologue.

This is very abstract and challenging for me to accomplish. People always preach that you should love yourself, but what does that even mean? I feel like I generally love myself, but I also tear down my confidence nearly daily with my thoughts. I don’t know how to go about thinking more positively about myself but being vulnerable with others has helped. This sounds horrible, and maybe I am just a true villain to myself and others, but knowing that other people can also be their own worst enemies has comforted me a bit. I used to think everyone just had it together more than I did, which probably fueled and reinforced my self-blaming nature. Thinking of myself as a friend to myself has also helped. I would never tell a friend that they were looking ugly or being really dumb when they failed a test, but I say these things to myself almost automatically. Try recognizing your own humanity to talk to yourself more kindly.

We are all growing into ourselves and experiencing life at our own pace. You may perceive others to be “better” than yourself, but you can never know how those people perceive themselves. We are all learning to love ourselves and even though we can’t build up another person’s confidence or reduce their self-blame, we can treat them kindly to make their own journey easier. You can also incorporate these techniques to how you interact with yourself! You may be having a rough time in school or work, but you can be kind to yourself to make everything slightly easier. I know this is not easy, breaking habits can be very hard, but recognizing when you continually blame yourself for things that are out of your control is a good place to start.