I must admit to having grown up more-or-less sheltered from the realities of our global and local environmental issues. This was in part due to my own inability to focus as a child, but was also largely a result of the environment in which I was raised. By that I refer not to my parents so much as society in general.
Given the economy, Albertans were very wealthy or success-driven and often too distracted with a need to “keep up with the Joneses” to realize the implications of their actions from an environmental perspective. It wasn’t until I neared the end of my undergraduate studies that I really started learning about and truly appreciating the details of our global environmental history and even some of the current issues that we are facing.
Some of the issues that have touched me deeply include ocean acidification, climate change and toxicology. For me, the most eye-opening experience resulted from my spending a semester at Bamfield Marine Science Center (Bamfield, B.C.), where I was encouraged to explore and appreciate nature in a way that I never had before. This even encouraged me to take some environmentally-focused courses in my final year at the University of Calgary.
After graduation, like many new grads in Alberta, I found myself working for the oil and gas industry. Two years came and went before I was finally able to admit to myself how unsatisfied I was. I wasn’t getting the sense of fulfillment that I wanted from my job.
As time went on, it became clear that I needed a change. I wanted to find a job that tackled environmental issues I was passionate about. I needed to feel as if my efforts in the workplace were contributing to something bigger, something truly important.
I finally mustered up the courage to give my notice at work, packed all of my worldly possessions, and moved to Vancouver where I am currently completing my Masters of Environmental Toxicology. Toxicology is a field of study that I stumbled upon by accident - a recommended book at Chapters. I found myself obsessed, leafing through the pages of any and all books that I could find. Toxicology fascinates me -- it can act in mysterious ways and has huge implications both at the environmental and human health levels.
I couldn’t believe my ignorance to this topic beforehand. Since making the decision to dive head first into an environmental field of study, I’ve noted one thing -- there is a lot that I don’t know. There came a time when I even started to second guess my sense of belonging. In hindsight I know it was merely the Imposter Syndrome at work resulting from a combination of having been out of school for a couple years and having met so many knowledgeable and accomplished individuals. I contemplated giving up and returning to Alberta where I knew that I could settle back into a job in the oil and gas industry.
Luckily, I’m far too stubborn to give up that easily. Instead, I forced myself to dive in a little deeper by surrounding myself with new friends and getting involved with local organizations like The Starfish Canada, The Vancouver Aquarium, and Sustainable SFU. For me, finding people with shared interests and passions played a critical role in my sense of belonging and happiness. I have met a wide variety of people from all walks of life. Some of them have already accomplished so much in their short lives (which I found very intimidating). However, I soon came to realize that we can’t all be superheroes, and that’s okay -- because every little bit helps.
Now, in case you’re left wondering, I’ve decided to share my story because I want to encourage people to follow their hearts. I also want to encourage people to connect with others and get involved in their communities. There are so many wonderful organizations all across this great country of ours looking for people like you to help. If you’re not sure where to start, ask around -- I guarantee that you’ll find something worthwhile.