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2022: A needed reset

The last two years have felt like an insane roller coaster. This pandemic has been a very weird time to navigate being a twenty-something year old fresh out of college trying to start their life. Though it is understandable that we are not the first generation to go through hardships during our coming of age transformative years (think the generation that graduated during the recession) this curveball has hit us in a way no other living generation has seen. Having to navigate new careers in a completely new digital arena, finishing school, or realigning our paths to something we may not have considered before as a means of survival. During this chaos, the need to focus on our mental health and well-being has been regurgitated over and over again. I have learned that you can hear something over and over again, but the message will not stick until you are ready to listen. I am hoping this year I stop hearing great advice and instead start listening to it. I can already tell by some work-related conversations I've had thus far that this year will be different than the last two, for me the last few months have been the equivalent of hitting a reset button.

Last year I felt I was miserably falling down a depressing hole of my own psyche. Coming away from one of the craziest years this century and then having to deal with climate disasters on my own while my family was hundreds of miles away unable to offer more support than a phone call I felt truly alone. Work at first felt like an escape from the craziness of the world but the further I got into brining equity into a bureaucratic agency built off white supremacist values the more I felt powerless. At times I felt I was being used as a pawn because of how passionate I was about the work I was doing when nothing was being done behind the scenes. I got the opportunity that two years ago (pre-pandemic) I could have only dreamed of; speaking to a governor-appointed rulemaking board about the need to focus our efforts on environmental justice. This was an honor that I did not only do once but twice within a three months span. I know that had I been in a better headspace I would have marveled at that accomplishment but it instead sunk me further down into my depression. I felt delusional as if I was talking to a wall and telling it my hopes and dreams and expecting something out of it. There was no follow-up, no change in the status quo, just a passion-filled presentation that was nothing but that. At this point, I was burnt out barely able to get out of bed for weeks at a time. I stayed in this low mindset for the majority of the year forgetting what I set out to do in the first place. Why was I putting myself and my reputation on the line by being so outspoken when nothing would ever come from it? In hindsight, I know that all the negative thoughts that plagued my mind were of my own creation but while I was going through it I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and I became very cynical and bitter towards all the work I had done. I felt my mental and physical health declining to the point where my body began to break out in hives from stress and I could not even force myself to see a doctor because I didn't have the energy. I felt I was falling deeper and deeper into a hole. I talked to many people who tried to get me to see the light of my work and who assured me that everything I was doing was for a greater purpose, but their words went in one ear and out the other.

Fast forward a few vacations to California to visit friends and family and a complete disconnect away from work later, and I could feel the life coming back into me. At home, I have somehow crafted an ongoing saying "Patty Saves the World" where my friends ask how saving the world is going whenever they ask about my work. This is in reference to my passion for wanting to "fix" climate change and one of many previous YouTube channel names. I have always been passionate about the environment and I feel like learning more and more about the world and the big impacts we are having on ecosystems made me want to do something to help. Though up close I feel like I am fighting a battle that seems like a losing one that has also been taken up by many others before me, I know that I have a group of people who are cheering me on along the way. I may not be the loudest voice in any room I enter but I have done what I can do to make waves. Though it is easier for me to believe criticism than it is for me to believe encouragement is genuine I am starting to open my ears and realize that my impact is far greater than I can even conceptualize.

I wanted to start the year off fresh by re centering my focus on why I am doing the things that I am doing. Why did I make a YouTube channel about science? Why a podcast and a website? Why did I go into the career field that I am in? I also wanted to allow myself to be vulnerable and start acknowledging that the embarrassing demotivational hiccups are part of the journey. Rather than internally yelling at myself that no one cares about my internal struggles and to just post the content and go, I am acknowledging that I am in control and the sole person who gets to put whatever I want out there. After the self reflective year I've had in facing the darkest parts of my mind I am acknowledging that the dark thoughts that exist are part of me and all I can do is work through them. I am going through this journey at the pace that I set. If that means I am going to grind out every creative project I can excrete through my pores then I will do that, if I decide publishing once a month is all I have the power to do I will do that. But the important thing is that I will not stop.

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