April 5th, 2021
A few days ago I received a brochure in the mail from National Geographic. The unexpected surprise crammed into my tiny mailbox gave me a rush at first. The famous yellow rectangle framing a grizzly bear sitting in a field of dandelions on the cover, “Expeditions: Travel Catalog 2021-2022” it read. I am still not sure how they got my name and address, I didn’t recall signing up for anything. The sight of such a thing would have made younger me very happy, but receiving it now in April of 2021 I was overcome with a melancholic sadness.
It was not just the fact that traveling during the COVID-19 Pandemic was a big risk and that I missed being able to travel unabated, but the brochure stirred memories in me I had long forgotten. Back when I was a little Livi in high school taking AP Environmental Science I realized I absolutely loved science and at the time thought I wanted to study plant science and conservation. My school had a partnership with national geographic to do a lecture series and that meant every few months they had a national geographic photographer and activist come to give a talk in our auditorium. These talks were the highlight of my day when they happened and I made sure to go to every one I could.
I remember being 16 and thinking, “that is my dream job”.
I loved science, I loved photography and cinematography (and felt I was pretty decent at it) and I wanted to be a climate and social justice activist. I knew realistically my odds of becoming a NatGeo scientist and photographer were very slim but that didn’t stop me from hoping and dreaming.
Here I was 7 years later with this brochure in my hands, having forgotten that dream many years ago and replaced it with something that I thought was more “attainable”. I decided to settle for less when I hadn’t even tried to follow that dream. Of course dreams can change, but I truly felt I had not even given it a shot.
Many of us seem to fall into this trap. Taking ourselves out of the race before we even try to run it, because if you never try then you can never fail. It saves you from the pain of trying and failing. But this is a fallacy, because not ever attempting to follow your dream is a guaranteed way to ensure it is never fulfilled. I think we deserve better odds than that.
During a coffee catch up with my good friend I expressed to her how the brochure made me feel. She proceeded to tell me that I was the one holding myself back, not the limitations I perceived were set upon me.
“You are a smart, educated, driven young woman, and you have a world of options at your feet. You get to decide what life you want to lead. You have that privilege now when so many others do not. I think you should go for it. Sell all your things and go on one of those trips. You have to start somewhere Liv. I think you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t at least try” she said.
The sort of manifest destiny, go getter attitude was something I was lacking of late and I was in dire need of a pep-talk. She believed in me and my ability to make my life anything I wanted. I just needed to find a way to believe in myself first.
I cannot be a passive observer in my life and expect to get to where I want/need to go. Something has to change.