Anxiety, uneasiness, fear, racing thoughts. These are the things that I have to deal with on a daily basis. I am a teenager in a judgmental world, just trying my best isn't enough. On top of that, there is the constant need to have my entire future planned out so that everything will be perfect from the minute I open my eyes to the minute I go to sleep. I need to know what will become of me; what my future holds. Around the end of July, that all changed. I got involved with Straub Outdoors in their Nature-Based Youth Leadership Program, and even though I was only with them for a week, I found the thing that was within me this whole time; serenity.
The state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.
From the beginning, I've had tendencies that never allowed me to be outside and have some time for myself. I was always very impatient and felt like I was too busy without a single moment to catch my breath. For the past two years, I’ve been involved with the Girls Inc. Eureka! Program, a five-year STEM-based program for 8th-12th grade girls. Going into the third year of the program, I was supposed to participate in a leadership opportunity, and was connected with Straub Outdoors’ Nature-Based Youth Leadership Program, along with a group of other high school girls. I was having such a hard time learning how to deal with my anxiety and nothing was working for me. Due to this, I was not interested in anything, so I had low expectations going into this summer program. However, the very first morning, as I walked to my destination, I was thinking about it more and more and decided to have an open mind. I just wanted something to work out for once. When I arrived, I was given an overview of what my week in nature would look like, and as soon as I was told, there was an instant interest that grew within me.
This fascination with nature changed me. The beginning of the week, like the ending, was so memorable. We started off by going to a natural area called Savanna Haven, and just walking around this gorgeous place made me think of what it could become if only people could see what I saw in that very moment.
Within that week we did so much, but what really made me fall in love with nature was the river. Going to the river time and time again really opened up my mind. The river became my friend. It spoke to me, listened to me, and I listened to it. The river had even cried with me and even though we never said a word, the river and I became good friends. Whenever I am stressed I allow myself a chance to take a breath to stop myself from falling, because taking a breath reminds me of how I felt when I was by the river, painting, and of how calm and peaceful everything was…I didn't just become good friends with the river I also became good friends with the radiant women who were the program leaders that go by the names of KB and Katie. As soon as I met them, they instantly brought a wonderful energy with them. They were always so positive, encouraging and most of all, funny. I envied their personalities and just hoped that I could take a piece of them with me and become like them.
The PH levels, types of trees, bushes (poisonous or not), these were all the things that I had learned from KB and Katie. The funny thing was that I wasn't even aware that I learned any of this. It just stuck to me and to this day has stayed with me. Re-building picnic tables, clearing hiking trails, landscaping and meeting many empowering people that have been in many places around the world, that are involved with nature, and love what they do made me understand why these people have such a great love for nature. My anxiety has really stopped me from doing the things that I could end up loving, having this fear of messing up or failing has really put a toll on me. KB and Katie taught me to always give things a try. So, I try, and even if I fail, they make me feel accomplished and proud of all that I do.
I met a lot of amazing people, but KB and Katie gave me the chance to use my voice without fear and reflect on a life that I had once lived. I didn't just talk to KB and Katie, I also spoke to a woman named Antonia, along with the rest of my group. We talked about our childhoods, how we would run around with our bicycles and scooter around our neighborhoods, how we would go outside to enjoy the playgrounds. We discussed making friends in an instant over how much fun it was to play freeze tag and wanting more and more people to join and then, all of a sudden, it changed. We have gotten into a world where everyone is on their phones or in front of a screen and everyone has forgotten what it is like to go outside and run around or play a game of freeze tag. This week not only showed me how many different options I have to pursue for a career, but that when I allow myself to be present and forget all of the unnecessary problems that I have created in my head, I let myself enjoy the beautiful thing that is being in this world.
As I begin to face my anxiety head on, taking deep breaths as I understand what is to become of me and how I will make myself happy as if I were a child once more, serenity is what I seek. The small taste that I got from that week has kept me wanting more because being calm, peaceful, and untroubled has led me to feel happier, less anxious, and in a better mood. I can learn better and just feel better in my daily life.
About the Author: Litzy Vasquez
Litzy Vasquez has known one place in her life, a small town in Oregon called Woodburn. Being born and raised in one place has made Litzy feel safe and proud about where she comes from because she feels that she belongs. She loves all the people, all the places, and all the food. One of the things she loves to do is walk. She doesn't just walk around the same place every day, she goes to different places and sees new things. The place she likes to go to the best is a park called Settlemier Park. Litzy loves this park because it reminds her of walking through a forest. She enjoys hearing the leaves blowing in the wind and the squirrels running over and under the trees, so she tries to walk through the park at least once every week.
Litzy is still trying to find herself as a sophomore at Woodburn High School. She participates in many activities, including the softball and dance team, engineering classes, and the Girls Inc. Eureka! Program. Litzy is keeping an open mind on what career path she's wanting to take, but as of now, she is considering pursuing marine biology, environmental studies, or biomedical engineering. Litzy is just happy about where she is now and is continuing to find her path.