In my life, I’ve had the privilege of living in-between privilege and inhibition. My familial ties to Washington, DC and roots in rural Virginia exposed me to a life of security and scarcity, and I quickly learned to navigate their overlap. I was taught to love the earth while surrounded by those who live from it, finding the balance between the two often overlooked by those unfamiliar with the concept of depending on land for survival. Sustainability is not always accessible, especially on the basis of class, and my early exposure to this disconnect has driven my desire to rewrite the narrative surrounding environmentalism.

I was shaped by communities built on the metaphysical, where materialism is inaccessible and the vibrance of the community is in the nature of its people. It is in these people that I continually find new parts of myself, as well as the stability of home. To me, home is neither a permanent, nor well-defined location. Home is a feeling, an emotion. A relationship between our externalities and identity, where we find similarity between our own rhythm and that of our surroundings. From the forests of Virginia to the high desert of southern New Mexico, I’ve been privileged to call protected lands home, but I do not intend to limit my perception of home to any one place.

I began to see myself within the simplicity of my surroundings from an early age. The evergreen peaks of the Blue Ridge and coniferous shores of Lake Roberts taught me of resilience through the pine tree. Both as a trailblazing species in nature’s reclamation of scarred earth, and as a symbol of my own persistence through the tests of life, pine trees are especially significant to me. I’ve found them in every place I’ve ended up, making them a rare constant in my ever-changing life. I’ve found peace on the precarious precipice of impermanence, balancing between past familiarity and future unknowns. I’ve sailed from peak and trough on the waves of change, and found myself nonetheless content with my own lack of foresight. I’ve grown familiar with love and loss, leapt blindly into uncertainty, and skipped from time and place in search of new unknowns.

And despite opposition, I remain vulnerable in this world full of reasons to disengage. I would rather be a malleable object in the hands of unpredictability than attempt to protect and preserve the person I currently am under any illusion of permanence. Here’s to remaining unapologetically myself- an ever-changing form, ready to meet whoever I am meant to be on this long and winding path of life. I cannot wait to see how Baldwin will influence who I become in the same ways that my past brought me to this point.