Audrey Ching, Division 3, College freshman #ws17e-s3d3

I stand there squinting as the sun’s intense rays shine down upon my bare shoulders. The sweat dripping down from my face as the small colorful beach umbrella provides me with minimal protection and shade from the effulgent brightness. The ebb and flow of the waves soothe me as I watch my sister and mother out in the distance searching for hidden treasures. “Audrey!” my sister screams to me, promptly waving her arms. Quickly, I sprint to their location as my three year-old mind attempts to conjure what they found. When I arrive, I discover a small, brightly colored orange starfish in my mother’s palm. Surprised and excited by her findings, I slowly reach out my finger to gently pet the foreign creature. My mind races as a million questions begin to fill my thoughts. What is this creature? How did it get here? Why does it feel so rough? As I take the starfish into my own possession, my mother urges me to be careful as it is a living creature of nature and that we should observe, not harm it. After my thorough examination of the starfish, I return it back to its home in the shallow tide pool as a mist of ocean spray flickers upon my leg. Amazed by the wonders and beauty of nature, I spend the rest of the day further exploring the frontiers of the beach, gathering more and more information.

This first encounter with nature inspired within me, a passion to venture into more of nature’s magnificent phenomenons. My parents, also outdoor enthusiasts, would regularly allow me to participate in a myriad of outdoor adventures such as hiking, fishing, biking, and many more. As a result, I would often spend my weekends exploring new national parks or even secret fishing spots. I enjoyed all of my outdoor endeavours, but my favourite activity was fishing. These fishing trips were my favourite because I was able to surround myself with the tranquility of nature to concentrate on hooking the fish. Since childhood, I continued to accompany my father on his various fishing trips, and I distinctly remember when I caught my first fish. The exhilaration and excitement I had when holding up the eight pound bass was as if I had won the Vince Lombardi Superbowl Trophy and was holding it up in the football stadium. My experience with fishing instilled within me the virtues of diligence and patience as I gained more practice. Learning various fishing knots from my father was like learning how to ride a bike because the more practice I got, the easier it became for me to tie a hook to a lure.

However, as much as I enjoyed nature and fishing, I was different from many of the kids my age. Instead of spending a majority of my time indoors mindlessly watching TV shows or playing with Barbie dolls, I would spend my free time in nature, walking on short hikes or collecting leaves and rocks as souvenirs. When my friends would ask what my favourite TV shows were, I would respond with “Man vs. Wild” or “Deadliest Catch”. Due to my unusual TV preference, I would be unable to engage and participate in dialogues between my friends about the newest “Spongebob” episode or what Dora was going to explore next. Nonetheless, nature continued to remain an active role in my life as I became more fascinated with outdoor survivalist shows. Being a nature lover, I made it a personal goal to encase more of my life in the great outdoors. I sought out future vacation spots to areas such as Mammoth, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe and many more. I travelled to a plethora of places during the summer such as Mammoth, but was not always completely satisfied with the places I went because I wanted to be able to travel to more places. As the list for vacation spots grew, I was unaware that my ability to travel and fulfil my goal would come to an abrupt halt.

As middle and high school progressed, my weekend getaways in nature became less and less frequent. The more honor and AP classes I took, the less time I had to really appreciate and spend time with nature. My workload exponentially increased as time went on and I gradually forgot about my goal to encase my life in nature. Because I was constantly worried and anxious about school, I would regularly look to social media as an outlet for relieving my stress. This became an increasing problem as this progressed into a path of sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle choices. It got to a point where I developed depression due to the mental stress and anxiety I faced on a daily basis. My parents attempted to help me in my depression by taking me in to see a psychologist; however, it proved to be inefficient as I continued in the same state. In my search for different ways to relieve my constant depression, I rediscovered nature. Because I was stressed out about the amount of school coursework, I reinvented my studying habits. At home, I was constantly surrounded by distractions such as the TV, my phone, my dogs, and many more. However, I began seeking out quiet areas such as the park after school to study in peace, without the constant fear of distraction. Within weeks of going to the park, I noticed that I was able to better concentrate on my homework, and my anxiety lessened. Instead of looking to social media as a way to find solace in my continual anxiety and depression, I was taking short walks and using exercise to relieve my stress.

Through rekindling my love for the outdoors, I once again was able to continue my goal of further surrounding myself with nature. When I became overstressed in class, I would seek out nature as a refuge to gather my thoughts. It was the one and only place where I could reflect upon my thoughts and really concentrate on my tasks. Seeing how much nature has helped me, I noticed that many of my peers were encountering the same difficulties I had faced. Not only were they stressed out by school, but they were also looking to social media as a way to alleviate their anxiety. Looking to encourage my friends in seeking alternative ways to lessen their stress, I began inviting them to study sessions in the park after school. This proved to be effective because we were able to focus on learning the material, without the constant distractions of our phones. Through the role nature has played, we were able to improve our grades and also lessen our stress and anxiety.

At school and in today’s generation, I am noticing an increasing problem with millennials. Most of the time, today’s generation of kids would rather spend their time indoors on their phones or laptops instead of utilizing their time outside enjoying the beauty of nature. This is not the case with me because I’m the type of person who needs to fully surround myself in nature in order to find peace and comfort. On Instagram and Facebook, many people can say that they find nature beautiful, but they do not truly understand the full beauty of nature until they experience it for themselves. That is why I am a nature activist who strives to preserve the beauty of the natural world. If I see an empty bottle or a stray plastic bag, I will pick it up and properly dispose of it because I believe that people should preserve nature not pollute it. In being a strong activist for nature, I want to empower and encourage my generation and future generations to fully appreciate nature’s magnificence by showing them that spending time outdoors is better than watching your life go by on a four inch screen. Nature has played a large role in my life, serving as a place of solace, guidance and comfort. It surrounds me and is everything I perceive in the physical world. However, to me, nature does not play a role in my life. Nature is my life, and I will strive to achieve my goal of further encompassing my life with nature.
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