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

5 things that have made me happy this week

Last week was kinda rough for me. I was feeling very frustrated and angry with this whole situation and just wanting everything to be normal again. Very self-centered but also valid? Anyways, I had a much better week this week and here are some of my highlights!

  1. Meeting up with friends at a park: I know this isn’t exactly staying home and social distancing, but it was exactly what I needed. I met up with two of my good friends at a park and just hung out in the parking lot and talked. We couldn’t hug, or even come within six feet of each other, but it made me feel like things were a little bit more normal.
Photo taken by Daniel Hamilton

2. Seeing two eagles: Just as some people are storm chasers, I consider myself an eagle chaser. If I know about a nest, I will be visiting and singing “God Bless America” at the top of my lungs. My boyfriend and I went on a hike to see these eagles at a local park, which also drastically improved my mood. I plan on writing a post about the benefit that nature seemingly has on my spiritual and mental health which will hopefully better put this feeling into words.

3. Starting summer classes: I was definitely relieved to be done with the spring semester, but it also left me feeling restless with nothing to do. I started two of my summer classes on Wednesday and I am very excited to learn more about topics that interest me and to have more of a schedule.

4. Going on a walk: On Mother’s Day, I enjoyed walking through the woods behind my house with my mom and two dogs. It gave me a greater appreciation for my family and where we live. I had been feeling somewhat trapped in my house, and just wanting to go anywhere, but seeing a different perspective of my neighborhood made me accept and enjoy my situation more.

5. Watching the Back to the Future trilogy: I love these movies so much. When I saw them all on Netflix, I immediately dedicated my day to watching them. I don’t think I’ve ever watched them back to back before, but it made all of the repetitive scenes so much funnier for me. Marty McFly, I love you.

Love, Olivia

how and why i journal

My completed journal collection

I am a very nostalgic person and journaling comes pretty naturally for me. It has been such a valuable resource for my own mental health, and I love being able to flip through the pages of my life. I have been regularly writing my daily activities and feelings in notebooks for about 10 years, which are definitely the inanimate objects I would save in a fire if I could (Sorry Passport, you were a close second!).

My regular style of journaling is very basic and is probably what everyone first considers when they think of keeping a journal or diary. My journals from fourth through sixth grade are literally just pages of me changing my crush on a daily basis. I just write whatever is on my mind for that specific day, which could be what I did, how I feel, or what I dreamed about the night before. I try to write daily, but I probably end up writing about three times a week. I really love this style of written expression that I have grown into, but recently I have incorporated other styles of journaling into my routine.

I have three alternative notebooks that I use less frequently than my main journal. My first other journal is a pocket-sized notebook where I write funny things down. I carry this around with me and write down funny phrases, events, or jokes that I experience. I started keeping this in high school, and I am so glad I did. Whenever I am feeling down, I can look back and find something to laugh about. I haven’t been writing in this one that much for the past two months, but I have been looking at old entries a lot.

My second notebook is what I call my bullet journal, but it’s really just a random notebook. I write down to-do lists, blog ideas, and class notes in here. I have enjoyed having this junk drawer of a journal, and I think it has helped me be more productive (and keep track of the passing days) during my quarantine time.

My final notebook is something I have only started in the past week, where I write down stories from my family. I was inspired to do this after looking through old family pictures with my dad and listening to his childhood stories. I hope this is something I keep up, as I have really enjoyed it so far!

My current four journals

I don’t think you need a separate notebook for whatever you want to journal about, but loving stationary is part of my journaling curse. You don’t even need a physical journal, there are so many online options available if you prefer that! If you are interested in starting to journal, I would recommend just writing and not thinking too much about it. This sounds like horrible advice, but you will never start unless you actually start. You will find your own style and what you like to write about over time. However, if you are already into journaling and looking to expand what you write about, I hope you can find some inspiration from this post! Blogging has been another journal-like creative outlet for me, where I have to refine my writing a bit more and talk more generally about topics. I really appreciate this format as it has allowed me to connect with more people than my private notebooks allow.

Love, Olivia

6 of my best and worst habits

Has life in quarantine highlighted some of your personal habits for better or worse? I know for me this time has made me recognize some of my productive and destructive habits. I have been trying to break some of these bad habits, but I suspect it will be a very gradual process. Like with any personal growth, giving yourself credit for positive things can help boost motivation. Use this list as inspiration to reevaluate your own personal habits but try not to compare yours to mine. We are all on our own journeys and my “good” habits do not invalidate yours. Also, nothing to do with the actual content but this post is best read while listening to “Habit” by Still Woozy.

My proudest, most valuable, and close to my heart habits:

  1. Washing my face: This seems very basic, but I will always wash my face at night, no matter how tired I am. I used to just lay in bed and plan to wash my face in a few minutes but would consistently fall asleep before actually following through. Now, I make a habit of washing my face before actually laying down. I have seen an improvement in my skin since doing so, and it just makes me feel better about myself before going to sleep.
  2. Always reading a book: This habit definitely depends on the amount of free time I have, but I try to always be reading a book. This doesn’t make me a fast reader though, as I probably only spend around 20 minutes a day reading. I usually do this reading at night, which I feel like has made a nice routine for me. I am currently reading Me before you by Jojo Moyes and I am really enjoying it so far.
  3. Regular exercise: This is interesting to me because I don’t have a regular exercise routine in terms of the activities that I do, but I do exercise in some form at least four times a week. Some of my favorite activities are running, hiking, or walking my dogs. As I have found myself inside more, I have been trying out some workouts like yoga, barre, and HIIT which I have been loving so far.

Now, welcome to the dark side of my worst habits:

  1. Blindly clicking buttons on my computer screen: This sounds very dumb, which I know my wording isn’t helping, but I will click through online agreements without reading a thing like my life depends on it. I am no stranger to requesting a refund in a customer service chat room after being mysteriously charged for something my unconscious brain agreed to. I have been trying to break this habit by forcing myself to just read things, but it has not been easy as it has literally become such a bad HABIT!!
  2. Procrastinating for productivity: For some reason, I can only start writing an essay within 48 hours of the deadline. This causes a lot of stress for me, but I always get it done with a good grade so there are no actual consequences. I have been trying to prioritize my wellbeing by actively getting ahead of schedule, but I find I usually have no motivation to do so. As online school continues, I hope to develop more of a schoolwork routine.
  3. Displacing my stress onto others: This is probably my worst habit that I have noticed during this time. I’m not sure if displacing is the correct word (I plan to take some psychology courses over the summer but for now I am just working with the knowledge from a high school introduction course) but I frequently look for petty drama or fights with those around me whenever I am dealing with pressing deadlines. I think I use this as a sort of distraction for me. If I am in the middle of an argument, it is hard to focus on an assignment for school, but it is a toxic characteristic that I don’t want to identify with.

Let me know if this post made you do any reflection of yourself. What are your favorite personal characteristics or habits that you keep? Also remember that your “bad” habits do not make you a bad person, they just reflect some areas of your life that you need to pay more attention to. I am hoping to turn some of my bad habits into favorable habits that serve me and my loved ones.

Love, Olivia