Be Patient, Not Complacent
By: Kris Espiritu
Passion. Every millennial is familiar with this term.
I have been fortunate enough to discover and develop my passions in the years since my college graduation. I am absolutely addicted to creating connections with people; however, I am most definitely not referring to “networking” connections. I am talking about genuine emotional and visceral connections with others, and between others. I have been drawn to this because it is these connections that provide the foundation for the development of empathy, and empathy opens the door for a myriad of opportunities that would otherwise remain locked away. I work with high school students on a daily basis, tutoring them in math and science courses, but most importantly, in life. In my experiences, empathy has been the most powerful factor in establishing sincere connections between students and myself, and between the students themselves. It has also been the driving tool for getting them to work together, no matter their social, cultural, or economic background.
Connecting with the natural world.
"It is not us who reside in nature; it is nature that resides within us."
My favorite subjects to teach are Earth and Environmental Science. I am undeniably passionate about connecting with the natural world and getting others to connect to it as well. Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I see a mélange of profiles including friends, cannabis budtenders, track and field athletes, metalcore bands, but mostly hiking accounts and nature photographers. To me, these people live the dreamiest of lives, traveling from place to place across the world, documenting their adventures in nature with detailed recollections of the insights that come to them when stripped completely of all social and cultural setting. In short, I have come to learn that nature has a home for everybody; we just don’t see this, being deprived of the wilderness experience for so long. It doesn’t change the fact that we always have been, and always will be inherently connected to nature. It is not us who reside in nature; it is nature that resides within us. In connecting with the natural world, empathy is able to transcend our human species and extend to all the forms of life that inhabit this planet. And like I mentioned earlier… with empathy, opportunities are born, trust is built, and unity becomes a real possibility.
Coming to an unexpected realization.
Recently, I had a tough decision to make. Following my passions, I learned that teaching Earth and Environmental Science to students in combination with sharing stories of my personal adventures in nature brings the material to life. It bridges the gap between their world inside the classroom and the world outside, a gap that can inhibit the growth of any scholar along with their motivation to persevere through the challenges encountered in academic endeavors. This past fall, I applied to graduate school for a Master’s degree in Education and Teaching Credential Program. Of the two schools I applied to, I was accepted by one. I thought I was ready to accept the offer, desperate to begin my career as a teacher, but before I even received the acceptance letter, I had come to an unexpected realization.
I had been told over and over again by friends, mentors, and students alike that I would make a great teacher so it wasn’t a fear of failure that stopped me. It was that I knew deep down I was still far from being the kind of teacher I wanted to be, meaning that I wanted more tools in my arsenal. Inspired by my teachers and professors who have proven to be unquestionably well versed in their subjects from years of fieldwork and research, I wanted to have more stories of my own time spent exploring nature and venturing into the world of science that has opened my eyes to the immense wonders that lay hidden in every forest, desert, and mountain. Every ecosystem and geologic formation has a rich history waiting to be discovered and told, and I want to seek these stories out so that I may share the science behind them with my future students. I just know it will be a long road to get there.
Finding that balance.
Even though the thought of taking on this mission made me all warm and fuzzy inside, I couldn’t help but think of my parents, who have always been more practical in mindset and who never failed to remind me that I should be pursuing a full-time job complete with medical benefits and a steady income. With my rickety 25-year old Honda just passing 270,000 miles and my bank account never reaching above triple digits, I knew they had a point. Both of them were immigrants to this country and know all too well what it takes to make something from nothing. Where is the balance that allows me to honor both my passion and my parent’s practicality? I don’t have THE answer, but I do have one that seems to fit for right now: Be patient, not complacent. My parents—and others like them—did not get me to where I am today, having provided me with a rich childhood full of love and learning, by solely relying on their passions or the comfort of a steady 9 to 5 life. It took time. It took trial and error. It took sacrifice and commitment. It required a balance between the extremes, unfolding one step at a time. Keeping these insights in mind, I declined my graduate school offer—for now—and chose to remain steadfast and resolute on my path to the life I have always wanted to build, a path crafted by my own ideals and values. It felt liberating.
It's go time.
Don’t get me wrong. I can’t just sit around waiting for opportunities to plop into my lap. On the contrary, I have never been the one to keep my feet on the floor or my butt in my seat. I am now currently researching graduate programs for a degree in Geology or Conservation Science with aspirations to serve for the National Park Service or US Geological Survey, after which I intend to obtain my teaching credentials to serve high school and community college students. The clock is ticking and the grains of sand in my life’s hourglass are finite. It’s go time.