I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you to every single one of you paying attention. Thank you to every single person that has reached out to me in support, every single person that has challenged my beliefs, every single person that has talked me through my worst moments, and every single person reading this. This piece has been very difficult to write, probably because it’s about me.
Lately, being an activist has been extremely difficult. It’s hard to “turn off”. In the same breath, that’s exactly what I have done. I have turned off. I have been burnt out. I have been tired. I have felt hopeless. This is one of the first of many waves that I will continue to work through, but I want to take this opportunity to give light to the side of my journey I don’t always talk about: It’s hard.
I don’t ever want anyone to feel the way that I feel. Sometimes. Sometimes it sucks being the girl who gets up at 7am on a Saturday to watch documentaries and cry about Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, but I personally don't know many people doing this type of work, so I’ll take it on. This isn’t easy, it is very emotionally draining, but - somebody’s gotta do it. We need to get the message out. So here goes nothin’:
Who I Was
Sustainability has always been something that has piqued my interest, but I grew up following the same mantra as everyone else, “Reduce, reuse, recycle”...which just isn’t good enough, but nobody really knew that back then. It’s really smacking me in the face lately how much people just didn’t know...and still don’t. I think that’s where my frustration originates.
“No one taught you that?”
“Why didn’t they teach us about that?”
“Do people just not care?”
“How can I make people care?”
and ends up coming down to,
“Some people don’t care and I am neither capable nor responsible for getting them to.”
The older I became, the more my frustration grew with what felt like a lack of compassion. I feel a lot of feelings (Hi, empaths!), which is why it’s so hard for me to wrap my head around someone not feeling bad about something or not thinking about it later as I reviewed it over... And over... And over. At the same time, I didn’t know what I could possibly do in my role as a high schooler, host, dish washer, office assistant, cashier, whatever “little” position I filled at the moment. I felt small. Too small. Too young. Too naive. For some reason, I had this thought in my head that I wasn’t worthy enough to be one of “those people” to create change.
At the tail end of 2016, I was bartending a wedding where I met two chefs who introduced me to the world of farm-to-table. I had been in a funk and wasn’t sure how to shake it off. That night, at that wedding, my world began expanding in a way I didn’t know I needed because I didn’t know it existed in the first place. I had become stagnant and felt like I was holding myself back in the life I had begun creating for myself. I wasn’t necessarily in a bad place - I was just...stuck. I knew there was more life to live and I could feel it slipping away as my “pizza, burgers, and beer” side job started consuming a large majority of my time and energy.
When I decided to ditch the burgers and start this new farm-to-table job, I learned so much in so many different ways. I grew and evolved more than I thought I ever would. I was able to learn so much by being surrounded by like-minded people, which I really didn’t have before. My world was considerably smaller prior to this, I had gone to the same school with the same people my entire life, lived in the same place, and belonged to a conservative church that had nailed a lot of things into my head that didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. There is a lot of give and take to this. I am so grateful for the childhood I had, the family that I have, nothing was necessarily wrong - I was just ready to grow and my lifestyle at that time wasn’t allowing that. To touch back on what I said earlier: I didn’t even realize what I was missing. I had been surrounded by a lot of what I knew wasn’t right (for me) but didn’t know how to get to what was right since I had lived the same way my entire life. I hope that makes sense.
I finally felt like I belonged and found people who understood me, I didn’t feel like the weird one anymore. If you live in Indy and haven’t been to Garden Table before, GO! I love them so, so much and cannot be more thankful for my experience there.
Who I Am Now
For those of you reading this that don’t know me very well, I recently graduated with a degree in interior design and am working full time as a private aviation interior design coordinator. I never would have expected to make a career for myself in the field of aerospace and often wonder how the heck I got here.
This job has blessed me in so many ways, it has granted me the ability to study and work under some of the most driven, talented people I have ever met. I have been lucky enough to travel private internationally in less than a year in this industry. I feel very valued, respected, and appreciated by my employer - which, I won’t lie, feels way cooler as a designer (helllllllo, dream job!) than when I was appreciated as a phone girl at a pizza place. (Though - and I hope this is obvious, I would never be where I am today had I not been that phone girl at that pizza place).
As you might imagine, my current job can weigh heavy on my soul at times. I find passion in taking care of our planet and private aviation doesn’t exactly align with that. It’s actually pretty much the exact opposite. For a long time, I thought of that as a challenge...and I still do, but now I see it as more of an opportunity. This is something I have to constantly remind myself of. It’s funny how you have to allow yourself the ability to fly high in order to grow and flourish, while still keeping your roots in what you know.
Let me get back to the difficulty of this: Some people may not care, and that’s okay, because like I said before: “I am neither capable nor responsible,” for changing someone’s outlook, opinion, or lifestyle.
I am extremely serious about my lifestyle, as I assume you are about yours. I do everything in my power to follow the guidelines I try to live by, as I assume you do as well.
Have you ever felt like someone didn’t understand your lifestyle? Has anyone ever mocked you for your beliefs? How does that feel? Not good. We all are passionate about something and passion comes from the best place in our hearts. If we can merge our passions in order to understand each other a little better, I think that is one of the best places to be. By sharing this knowledge is neither responsibility nor a duty. It is passion. No one likes to have another person's beliefs shoved onto them. When you grow a garden you don't "plant a garden". You plant seeds to grow a garden. Ya feel?
What I know is that I am passionate about both design and sustainability. The approach in which I take on interior design is more than choosing pillows, curtains, and colors. Ugh, if that’s what you think this is: Please, catch up. We are creators, we are problem solvers, we are planners, inventors, and producers. This is not HGTV and it most definitely is not decorating.
People often say to me “You’re actually doing it.” “Well, of course!” is my response. I have this life to live, nothing else is guaranteed. I can hope for an afterlife, reincarnation, or heaven all I want, but all that I know for sure is that this current [life...moment...breath...time] - whatever you want to call it - I am experiencing is definitely is happening right now. So I’m going to advance to the best of my ability now, not later.
Who I Want To Be
I am going to change the world. I already am. So are you. Acknowledging and understanding my own power and capability has been completely life-altering in the best way. The moment I realized it’s me against the world (even though it feels flipped sometimes), I started moving mountains.
“‘Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it’ (Mahatma Gandhi) because, you can't know; You can't ever really know the meaning of your life, and you don't need to. Just know that your life has meaning. Every life has a meaning; whether it lasts one hundred years or one hundred seconds. Every life and every death changes the world in its own way. Gandhi knew this. He knew his life would mean something to someone, somewhere, somehow. And he knew with as much certainty that he could never know that meaning. He understood that enjoying life should be of much greater concern than understanding it. And so do I. You can't know. So don't take it for granted, but don't take it too seriously. Don't postpone what you want. Don't leave anything misunderstood. Make sure the people you care about know. Make sure they know how you really feel. Because just like that it could end.” - Will Fetters
It’s all about perspective, perception, and communication. What I have to say could be perceived completely differently than I intended. This can be frustrating, but this also helps everyone learn and grow as life and discussions continue. I’m sure some people have looked at my being an environmentalist and scoffed after finding out I work for an aviation company.
Well, let’s talk:
A few years into design school, I wasn’t so sure I was going to finish. Not because I didn’t love it, not because I had bad grades, maybe a little because of money...but really I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish up because I didn’t feel like I fit in. I volunteered at an award show for designers in the spring of 2016 and got my first real glimpse into the lifestyle. What I saw was posh and ritzy. I hated it. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered it before, but I suddenly realized that design in itself was a luxury. Poverty-stricken communities don’t hire their own personal interior designers. I wouldn’t be helping someone survive, I would be helping them thrive.
Fast forward through a minor quarter-life crisis and many pep talks from my parents: I graduate. Woo! I’m deleting old, embarrassing posts on Facebook when I see a message pop up from my now colleague, Luis, who asks me to come interview for this aviation company. At this point, I had been very intensely into the zero waste lifestyle for 8 months. His first question: Are you going to be able to handle working for an aviation company when you are so passionate about the environment?
I had thought about this the entire drive there. I told him then and still to this day look at it like this: Most environmentalists would look at this job and immediately turn it down because of the industry. This is exactly why I stay.
Someone has to do this. Someone that is this passionate about the environment needs to learn the industry so that it can adapt, because - flying isn’t going to go away. I don’t know if I will stay in aviation forever, but my point in all of this is that sustainability comes into play in every single aspect of our lives and we can improve from all angles. I am still in the early stages of my career and still have a lot to learn, but one thing I know is that I am one force to be reckoned with and wherever I go, I intend on creating an impact for good.
Everyone likes to be treated like a queen or king - one of the greatest strengths of our world right now is the ability to communicate with one another in ways we never would have been able to without the technologies that date just back to the '50s (For everyone else that also sucks at math, someone that was born in 1952 will turn 67 this year). A connection is what everyone is craving, and flying somewhere to see someone will always have leverage over an Instagram DM. So instead of breaking the wheel and starting over, I’ll rework it. How can I make aviation more sustainable? How can I make each part of my life more sustainable?
I’m not only going to take this box and think outside of it, but also flip it upside down, turn it inside out, and maybe (okay, probably) cover it in sparkles. Creativity has no end.
You will only go as far as you allow yourself. It’s okay to dive into things and immerse ourselves completely as long as we remain centered and are continuing to look at the big picture. We must check in with ourselves and ensure we remain in alignment with our truth.
We have one life to live and if we aren’t allowing ourselves to follow our passions and dreams, we aren’t only holding ourselves back, but the universe as a whole. People may have similar ideas and concepts to you (which is great) because we all learn and build off of one another. At the same time, no one else is going to say exactly what you have to say. Most of the time we have to hear something multiple times, explained in different ways sometimes by many different people to actually comprehend something. You could be the person that makes it click for somebody else.
My grandmother recently handed me a fortune cookie and when I turned it down because of the plastic wrapper, she said to me sadly, “Jordan, there are some things in this world you just can’t change.” I’m sorry, Gramma, but I challenge that. We must change. And even if it is hard sometimes, I’m not afraid to lead the way anymore. Who's in?