When I was 18, I had this crazy idea that I wanted to climb a mountain. Not just any mountain, but the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. With no knowledge or prior training, for some reason, I thought that this was a good idea, something that I “needed” to do. This decision came with ignorance in tow of the strength, both physical and mental, that I needed to be able to reach the summit. After months of training, with perseverance, and motivation stemmed from a fear of falling deep into a crevasse, I summited Mt. Rainier at 5am on July 31, 2014.
The journey by no means was easy, but I wouldn’t change the experience for anything. That climb gave me so much confidence, and taught me so much about myself, that I’ve applied it as a metaphor for my life, and hope to work as hard as I did for that climb, in everything that I do. It showed me my strengths, and pushed me to examine and work on my weaknesses. It supplied me with confidence, and reinforced the idea that if you work hard, and put your mind to it, anything is possible. It showed me that you can’t always prepare for everything, but with perseverance, you can make it through adverse conditions. It showed me that the journey is for the soul, and the summit is for the ego.
To me, this is what a college education is for. That journey up Mt. Rainier has become such a perfect metaphor for my life, and what I want my life experiences to be like. I want to be challenged, and pushed, I want to be taught perseverance, and be able to examine my strengths and weaknesses.
I feel a college education is for more than just earning a degree, that is simply for the ego. A college education should be looked at as a journey of self betterment and personal growth. It should be challenging, and rewarding, and most of all, it should help guide and shape a person into a new and improved version of themselves. The process of gaining a college education is for the soul.
This realization that education is for the soul, is something that I’ve learned recently, and something that I wish I would have known when graduating from high school. When I began my college education, I chose to enroll in community college to complete my transfer degree, there were many motivators behind this decision, but the biggest factor was that I simply didn’t know what I wanted to study, or who I wanted to become. After completing my degree at North Seattle College in March of 2015, I found my self in the same position I was in after graduating from high school, just as confused, and lost as before.
I ended up taking a year and a half break from school in which I traveled through South East Asia, and took a job as a communications and account manager for a small software development firm. My experience in South East Asia broke the bubble of comfort that I had been living in my whole life, and exposed me to a world so beautiful, and different from my own. It opened my eyes to the struggles of developing nations, and cemented the knowledge that there is no one right way to “do” life. Traveling through South East Asia, implanted an aura of self awareness and intentionality that I had not previously been cognizant of. My time working as a communication and account manager, gave me tremendous professional experience. I was working with various agencies throughout Seattle, growing professional communication skills, focusing on maintaining client relations, putting learned marketing skills to the test in a real life atmosphere, and learning the hard lesson that not all people who run businesses should.
These two experiences, gave me the insight that I needed to decide on who and what It was that I wanted to become, and what it was that I wanted to study. My travels opened my eyes to the idea that happiness comes in different ways to different people, and that there is a strong need for sustainable, community focused, implementation of “green” practices, not only in the developing world, but in communities much closer to home. My professional experience taught me many valuable skills, but also opened my eyes to the kind of work I wasn’t interested in, and gave me the knowledge that I wanted to do something “more”. My main reason for choosing CEP was because I was not able to find another major that matched what I wanted to do, as perfectly as CEP does. The ability to choose my area of study within this major is what drew me to it. The values and mission behind the core CEP classes is what confirmed my decision to apply, and the reason I was so ecstatic to be accepted to the program. As I have focused in more on my desires for my educational experience, and my hopes for a future career, I have decided to study sustainability and community development.
The next two years, I will focus on current sustainability efforts, resource management, community development, communications, leadership, and the policies that affect “green” efforts. The skills that I learn through my core CEP classes, as well as pursuing my area of study will prepare me to enter the work force as a viable candidate, and will provide me with an educational journey tailored to my interests and my desire for self betterment.
After I graduate from the University of Washington with my B.A. in Community, Environment, & Planning, I hope to be able to work alongside communities, using the critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills learned in CEP, to help them create and implement green practices that are practical and manageable for their individual community.