An Ode to Forces of Nature

An Ode to Forces of Nature

Since before I can remember I have gone outside in all seasons and temperatures in my Minnesota home. This mostly is in part because of my mother, who never took a snow day for a stay-inside day, taught me to always be prepared and not let anything stop me. I feel so fortunate to have learned so much from so many forces of nature in my life. Strong women who encouraged me to come skiing in sub-zero temperatures and push me to be my best, my aunts, grandmothers, mentors and role models, women of ancient times, and women today making their voices being heard who show me the maps and then say "pick your own route". 

Enjoying a sunset on the Mississippi in March

Enjoying a sunset on the Mississippi in March

I grew up at a summer camp where my mom worked as director, we lived pretty much outside most of many summers as I grew up. I feel lucky to know that the outdoors and finding wilderness is in my blood. Growing up with my mom, every weekend was an adventure. From skiing on the coldest days together, to traveling through the world on bikes and in tents, she has taught me to find my own route following my heart but always recognizing and doing what needs to be done. On the coldest days when I would drag my feet she would tell me about Ann Bancroft, a badass Minnesotan explorer lady who could never be stopped. By knowing about those before me, I was able to keep moving, without feeling like I was walking in the dark. 

And to the women who have known me since I was a baby, never told my mom to not bring me on canoe trips and were probably there with us, who have taught me so much about going out of my comfort zone and who I continue to look up to. Without mentors and role-models who I see in their everyday lives, there would be no seeds of projects and adventures in my mind planted since the beginning, that developed into scheming up dreams that have become reality.  If it were not for my mom and her countless stories of adventure I would have never realized what I have as a 19 year old growing up in this world. 

Me after crossing the border into California on my bike tour from Seattle to San Francisco in 2015

Me after crossing the border into California on my bike tour from Seattle to San Francisco in 2015

Part of those dreams are of making my voice be heard, part of becoming a force of nature is being a force of nature with others. I want to honor all the women who have been part of movement big and small, creating change in the world. I have learned to make my voice be heard only because of women who consistently show up and stand for what they know is right, for they are the ones who have taught me how my voice can be used for what I believe in.  Knowing that so many women came before those who I have looked up to makes me feel so grounded in the power that I  know we have because of the strength of women before me who have made change, forged their own paths and endlessly learned from the world without it ever letting them stop them, even if their names were not said or written. 

A sign I found in New York City at the Peoples Climate March in 2014

A sign I found in New York City at the Peoples Climate March in 2014

 And part of those dreams are going to the endless corners of the world spending time pushing myself to my limits, learning and being in new places, cultures, and languages. Challenging myself to live simply and off of moments and relationships rather than what mainstream media tells me will fill me up or make me happy. For the forces of nature that I don't know, who I've seen through a computer screen, doing things I am passionate about, half way across the world, who I look to and see that my dreams can be real. To the forces of nature who find ways to follow their hearts while making change and don't force themselves to chose one or the other. For those with the same passions I have, of following trails and making voices be heard, you teach me to invest in what I believe in and help me imagine a future where injustice isn't hidden and justice is cultivated.

Me with my host family in Thies, Senegal. Fall 2016

Me with my host family in Thies, Senegal. Fall 2016

To women like Caroline Gleich, a professional skier using her voice with Protect Our Winters to connect with government leaders about the importance of legislative action against climate change. In an interview after the People's Climate March in Washington DC she told me "Democracy works when informed, active citizens come to the table and speak up, and I love seeing the resurgence in energy in maintaining democracy" who are constantly role models for me as a woman on the slopes but also in the streets creating change.  To women who I heard speak at the Youth Convening in DC that same weekend like Yong Jung Cho who spoke about how we need to support a new generation of leaders. I support leaders like Nyiesha Mallet who I agree with when she says "climate change is a racial issue" and Amy Freeman who spent a year in the Boundary Waters National Canoe Area Wilderness as an act of protecting and bearing witness to it before it disappears. Women who stand for what they believe in and explore the ways to use their voices and experiences to be driving forces of change. Women who show the world that they will not be stopped by wind, snow in their faces or by being ignored and that they will use their forces of nature to create amazing things.  

To women who share their stories, like a MN writer named Stephanie Pearson who answered my email asking how she landed my dream job. The only way I have learned to dream what is possible is because women like them  explore and shared their journeys. Women whose books I can go back to no matter what time of night and find home in their words of strength and stories of power like Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie or Steph Davis writing about their passions and through sharing their stories being catalysts for change and inspiration. Women who use their voices in many different ways and in many different languages, who explore across borders and cultures.

I do not have the same experiences as all other women and I cannot speak to their lives. But because of their strength and their abilities to push the limits and sometimes fall, I have learned that being wrong is the only way to get better, but knowing when you're right can be just as powerful and challenging. So the next time someone asks if I need help, I can kindly but confidently say no without second guessing myself, because I know that women before me and around me have done it too.

I believe that the future of change is when I see women from everywhere, forces of nature, united in creating change and standing up for the places we call home and changing the way things happen without justice or empathy by having our voices be heard and not letting them be ignored or silenced.

Find your force of nature and use it, follow your dreams, create the change you need, explore, return and repeat. Then, hold hands with other fellow forces of nature and don't let anything knock you down. 

Ghent: exploring the best of Belgium

Ghent: exploring the best of Belgium

Struggle: A Travel Manifesto for Vagabonds, Expats, & Adventurers

Struggle: A Travel Manifesto for Vagabonds, Expats, & Adventurers

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