Story by Kriselda Bautista, 2014-15 CivicSpark Alum, Sierra Nevada Region
Going into my third year here in the Sierras, I can’t help but thank CivicSpark for the opportunity to be where I am — living, working and playing.
When I graduated college, I had no idea where I would end up or what I would be doing. I only knew that I wanted to keep learning, practice what I knew, and make a difference — big or small. And I wanted to have fun while I was doing all of that!
College at UC Irvine (ZOT ZOT) opened my world to diversity and social justice issues, environmental concerns, and a life that could be explored outside of my comfort zones.
Perhaps my sense of responsibility and stewardship — writing wrongs and fighting the good fight — comes from my youth. Some call it Catholic guilt or our mission on earth, whatever the case, I’m happy I have it.
Believing also that everything in life happens for a reason (or a season, or lifetime), nothing ever leaves you. It simply transforms into the next adventure, or thought, or career (which is always evolving). As someone who used to be cripplingly afraid of change, I find comfort in that.
After graduation, I stuck around Orange County to squeeze every last drop I could of being around my friends at that moment in time. Freedom, and then responsibility. Work would be there. A job isn’t hard to find if you’re eager to get out there and do. Anything would help, baby steps.
So I moved back home, befriended my parents (my first adult roomies [and my first roomies as an ‘adult’]), and found a job. What does an “Associate Environmental Consultant” do? Well, at KJServices, I worked with K-12 schools to implement the state’s Used Oil Recycling and Bottles and Cans Recycling programs. This looked like presentations, art contests, recycling contests (kids get so excited about collecting bottles and cans, let me tell you; and adults love it, too), and ice-cream and pizza parties. Oh yes, I had a great job. I even got to exercise my design skills helping the City of Torrance revamp their Recycle Torrance website.
I’d been there for about a year when I remembered this dream of wanting to live and work and play abroad. Experience a culture that wasn’t mine. I looked at China– there was a sustainability program there, roughly 12 weeks. It was enticing, but also very new, expensive, and too short in my opinion.
Thailand. I’ll go there.
After a bit of research and emails, I set my mind on teaching English abroad. I got certified in Bangkok with around 40 other native-English speakers (all of us crammed in one hostel– it was like freshman year of college on steroids). Fun, of course, but I was ready to go out there and teach. Head first into a world unknown.
They say growth happens at your limits. When I finished teaching English in Thailand, I knew I had grown quite a bit. I traveled and experienced southeast Asian culture through food and trekking and bartering with locals. I was invigorated by the freedom that being a foreigner allowed–a stranger in a new land figuring out how people here live life. I find myself back at this place often. I suppose that’ll happen until I stop growing.
Environmental issues will always be a thing so long as there is an environment to look after and people who care. I knew when I got back from Thailand that work would be waiting for me. I just didn’t know what form it would take.
Fortunately, staying with my parents once again made the tedious and oftentimes discouraging job search into funemployment. My sister was getting married and I jumped on every opportunity to enjoy the time in between planning. It was a beautiful wedding and the perfect sendoff to both of us on these new paths in our lives.
A few weeks after the sunny San Diego ceremony, my dad and I set along 395 north headed for Reno–tiny Prius packed to the brim. I’d never driven past Mammoth on the east side of the Sierras before. I suppose it was new and exciting and sad for both of us. Thailand was far, but it had an end date (and let’s be real, I could only pack and travel with so many bags, the pack rat that I am). This was as open ended as the desert to the east, and as mysterious as the mountain ranges to the west. After all of the car rides spent collectively with my father to and from school, church, and trips to Yosemite, we’d never spent so much time in silence. Reflecting, I think. Savoring the silence, indefinitely.
Silence is the element that allows us to determine what is truly essential.
A couple of nights before I made the decision to take on CivicSpark in Truckee, I pitched a tent on the patio roof outside my window and stared at the moon. There’s a lot of mystery in that big rock of light, too. Basking in its glow, my good friend and I soaked in moments I’ll always remember. Making decisions is tough. Not making them is easy, but when you do, the payoff is enormous.
To the CivicSpark 2016-17 cohort, you may be faced with some tough decisions right now, marinating in uncertainty. As a Gemini, planner and analytical thinker, I know what it’s like to weigh out the extremes. To be torn between the best and the worst, two sides of the same coin. You’re not alone.
My advice? Follow your gut. Remember your values (and if you don’t know them, take the time to figure out what they are and what really matters to you). Feel whatever it is you’re feeling, fully. If you feel like you’re falling too close to an edge you don’t want to explore, let others know where you are. The people who care will watch out for you, trust that. But allow yourself the freedom to explore the discomfort in any situation because that will ultimately help you build the strength to navigate the uncertainty. You are stronger than you think.
I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for everyone I’ve met along the way. To a place that I am happy, fulfilled, and making a difference. Some call it luck. I call it good timing. I won’t always be happy, and I won’t always be full, and I won’t always feel like I’m making the difference that I want to make; but in the end, it is less about what I give and more about what others receive. I take a step back and realize that this life’s not about me.
So then, I am a vessel. A conduit for encouragement. When it seems the burden is too much to bear, remember:
The end will justify the pain it took to get us there.
Where am I now? I am in the third corner I’ve occupied since beginning work here at Sierra Business Council and I’m beginning to understand and enjoy the journey of finding purpose with passion and perseverance.