It is a New Year.
Time to reflect on the last 12 months. After a year of searching for a way on the windy path of life, I finally found my home in Bellingham, at Western Washington University. Last year, 2015, was the best year of my life.
I began working for Facing the Future (FTF) about four months ago and my work there has changed the way in which I view the world. I read about ecosystems, water quality and land conservation everyday in FTF's curriculum, which has taught me to live a more sustainable life.
For example, I read labels at the grocery store now and I buy food that has traveled shorter distances. I eat meat less often because of the water required to raise livestock and I shop for clothes with a critical eye. I am making personal efforts to become a more sustainable citizen and to develop a sustainable mindset.
I was running in my neighborhood the other day thinking about ways to become a more responsible citizen.
How could I do this without giving up all of the activities that I love? I began to wonder if that was even possible. As I ran down the street I smelled a strong odor of gasoline. Was my first thought about pollution and ecosystems? No, my first thought was of all the good memories I have from learning how to water ski at the lake when I was a kid!
I grew up in the southwest desert in Midland, Texas. Summers were hot and dry. Temperatures would reach 105 °F almost every day in June, July, and August. One summer it reached 122°F! My brother, sister and I would ride our bikes to swim team everyday at eight in the morning because we loved to play outside and it was too hot to do anything else. My dad’s friend had a lake house about two hours from the small city we lived in. It was the closest body of water other than the duck pond at a park.
My best memories are from my elementary and middle school years. I spent a lot of time at our friend's lake house where I learned to water ski. As a kid, I had trouble reading. I fell behind at an early age at school. I did my best to make it to the next grade by always making C's. I had low academic confidence but I disguised it by being a very positive and friendly person. During middle and high school we were offered basketball, volleyball or track for sports. I was good at the drills in practice but I was terrible at the games. I was teased by my peers in academics and in sports but I kept my head up. Finally, at summer camp, I was able to show my talents in water sports. My confidence soared and when I returned to the gym the following school year, I used ball sports to stay in shape for next summer’s water sports. School sports also helped wear me out so that I could concentrate in school. By this point, however, my reading difficulties had taken their toll. By my senior year, I was making D's and even a few F's. I barely graduated. Then I went on to the University of Mississippi. I failed during my first year and my academic confidence was in the garbage.
I applied for a snow ski instructor job in Red River, New Mexico. While working as an instructor, I was encouraged by my friends and colleagues to get my Professional Ski Instructor Certification. I had never studied for anything so hard in my life. I ate, breathed and slept snow skiing. I learned about teaching techniques, movement analyses and customer service. The next year I took more written and ski exams and earned a second level of certification. Snow ski instructing gave me the confidence and the interest to apply for college again. This time as an early childhood education major.
My passion for board sports helped me stay healthy, boosted my confidence and eventually lead me to return back to college. After a year of community college, I was finally interested in academics but I found myself questioning my major. I decided to pursue an AA part time while I taught 3-6 year old ski school in Breckenridge, Colorado.
With an AA and five years experience as a ski instructor, I began a geology program at what was then called Western State College of Colorado. I was able to snow ski and explore the mountains but I longed to spend time on the water. Water skiing was always my favorite sport.
In 2014, I moved to Bellingham, Washington. I searched for geology jobs, wait staff jobs, any jobs, and I found nothing. I searched my soul for an answer, and realized my calling was to teach. I had gone full circle and found myself applying to go yet again to another college in a new town.
One day, I was walking across campus, 2,000 miles from my family, wondering if I was on the right path. Suddenly I heard a woman say, “Would you like to water ski with the water ski team?!” I couldn’t believe my ears. I looked up to see that she was holding a water ski! I began jumping up and down in the middle of Western Washington University.
I have now been to six, three-event collegiate water ski tournaments where we competed against west coast schools in slalom, trick and jump. Joining the WWU water ski team reassured me that I am exactly where I need to be. It has allowed me to participate in my favorite sport while giving me a sense of belonging in a healthy community. After joining the team, I knew I was in the right place and I am healthier and stronger than I have ever been in my life. My confidence is high, my thinking is speedy and my grades are better than ever.
In September, the team qualified for nationals so we all flew to Houston, Texas to compete in the D2 Collegiate National Championship. My family traveled to Houston to watch us complete. Our team did great at nationals and many of my teammates got personal bests. I got a personal best in a jump when I landed 40 feet from the jump! After four days of competition, WWU water ski won the D2 National Championship title. I have never been so proud to be a part of something in my life.
Today, I feel a push and pull between the women I want to become. On the one hand, I want to be a competitive water skier for as long as my knees can handle it (just like some of my new idols, my teammates mothers’ who began jumping in their 50s). On the other hand, I want to be a sustainably-conscientious, earth science teacher.
Can I follow both paths?
When I was reading an article from my science education class I came across the words, “...[science] should help students see the value to themselves and society of participating in the push and pull of conflicting ideas.” (Science for All Americans, 1990).
Perhaps I am lucky to have conflicting passions. It promotes critical thinking and provides a small scale model of concepts happening on a global level. In other words, conflicting passions are common but often they are less obvious on a global scale. I am also learning how to weigh my options and make healthy choices for myself and my environment.
Today, we have the resources to investigate our options and make sustainable choices. Perhaps, I can find a way to make water skiing my only carbon emitting activity.
New technologies have lead to the engineering of lakes with pulley systems that pull you across the water. Companies like Spray It Forward help skiers share their used equipment with collegiate water ski teams across the nation.
Let us use the push and pull of conflicting ideas within ourselves and society to become a society of problem solvers with a hopeful vision of the future.