I recently spent some time writing out a 9-page personal statement and although nothing really came about from this, I’m glad I undertook the project. It forced me to sit down and really think about all the things I’ve done in my life that have made me who I am and I was able to focus in on what I am looking to achieve in my future. I had to write down on paper real, tangible goals that offered me some direction when I’m constantly wondering, what’s next? While nothing in life is guaranteed, including my goals and dreams, it is nice to have something to work towards.
Here is a small excerpt from my statement:
“Throughout much of my childhood, nature played an important role in my life and my parents always made sure of that. My father grew up on a working farm in rural Ohio and his father would take their produce down to the Westside Market in Cleveland to sell locally. When my parents bought their first home, they made sure it had enough land for a large garden because they understood the value of growing their own food and passed that lesson on to me. Weeding, watering and picking the garden were some of my sisters’ and my chores and we spent many hot summer mornings out there, trying to quickly get through the weeding to run and play. Some of my fondest memories were in that garden with my bare feet buried in the soft dirt. I loved sneaking a cherry tomato right off the vine and popping it into my mouth. I never bothered washing them and they were always so warm and delicious that way.
Growing up in a rural area, we spent most of our days outdoors, exploring the world, creating our own games and clubs, climbing trees, building forts, riding bikes or just reading quietly underneath a shaded tree. When I started school, my mother signed me up for Girl Scouts, where I was a member for 9 years. Among their goals of empowering girls and instilling in us important values and skills, some of my favorite times were spent at Camp Timberlane, the local grounds we would often camp at both as a troop and individually at summer camp. Tying knots, building fires, cooking over the open flame, recycling and learning about nature were all lessons we were taught. We learned to respect the land and we learned about responsibility. We understood nature had lessons to offer us about life and survival. As a child, it built connections for me to nature and the world I lived in and that world felt so big and mysterious but I was a part of it.
Three years ago, I began very personal journey that has led me to where I am today. I became pregnant with my oldest child and I immediately began doing research on the “do’s & don’ts” of pregnancy, which led to life-changing discoveries about the type of chemicals I apply to my body on a daily basis through my cosmetics. I cleaned out my cupboards and replaced my cosmetics, soaps, cleaners and lotions with natural products that were sustainably produced. I learned about the type of things that are in processed foods, what it meant to be organic, what was involved with genetically-modified foods, and the impact that America’s factory farming industry had on an already troubled environment.
From all of this research, I become very conscious of the impacts of my actions. Organic, fresh, whole, local and recycled became an obsession for me as I tried my hardest to give my family the very best I could. I turned to vegetarianism, started growing our own vegetables and herbs in my small backyard garden, composting our food scraps, installed a rain barrel and made a commitment to recycle, carpool and use reusable grocery bags; all small ways for me to personally contribute. Growing up with the values and experiences I had, my general interest for our environment quickly turned into a passion for me. I was hooked. This was an awakening for me. As a new mother, the condition of our planet and the way we treat the wonderful nature God has blessed us with became a serious concern for me.
As I started reading and researching, women like Jane Goodall and Rachel Carson became strong role models and endlessly inspiring to me. The turning point for me was reading “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv, a birthday gift from my wise parents. I’ve always felt a kinship with the natural world and Louv’s research only reaffirms what I have subconsciously known: nature is crucial for healthy child development and offers humans healing, restorative benefits. In this moving book, Louv discusses how important it is for child development to establish a meaningful connection with nature, and the links between a rise in youth depression, ADHD, obesity and screen time with a decrease in the amount of time children spend outdoors exploring nature.
Looking back now, nothing in my childhood stands out more prominently than these memories. My parents provided me with the best type of childhood. I was a well-rounded, healthy, intelligent young girl who was curious about everything. I respected nature and animals and appreciated the food that was on our table because I understood the process it took to get it there. I still thank them all the time for the childhood they gave me and the values they established within me, and I use it as an example for raising my own children. My exposure to nature and our environment at a young age is single-handily one of the most important contributions to shaping my personal character and has made me the person I am today.“