by Makiah Belk

This summer the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars at NAU have participated in conservation internships across the country. Their blogs give us a peek into what they’ve been up to. Check ’em out!

While I didn’t go through this summer mindful of resiliency, it was undoubtedly a lesson in living resiliently. For me this meant learning to balance the different sides of yourself. Understanding resiliency isn’t a panacea to working, simply, a reminder it is just that, something we are doing to sustain ourselves.

Through this, I began to see the summer as a path. And while I got to do this alongside friends living similarly, personally, my end did not entail returning to school. Rather, I was constantly reminded that after this summer, I would be leaving to teach in South Africa.

Dealing with people and the planet was similar to teaching in a lot of ways. Intrinsically especially, there was a beauty in realizing we are doing this type of work to develop a sense of selflessness… In terms of the material self, we could be exerting energy for money in things that aren’t as stressful. The fact that we as humans are not perfect, but that we have sustained this self, at least well enough to give our energy to others still striving was something to be marveled to me. Knowing this helped me to decolonize my mind before going to Cape Town.

And it wasn’t all solely singular. Inevitably understanding the nature of a sense of self, I got to understand how marginalized groups played into all of this.

Sustaining the self is much easier with privilege, with money, and opportunity. Meaning, these privileged people have more to give in terms of time and energy. But being culturally conservationists, isn’t always a bad thing. I was able to bring inventiveness and ingenuity to the table; able to be intuitive along with other things that come from living in the margin.

Indubitably, DC gave a lesson in pacing yourself through the process. Ideally, we would all be able to give and give and give and not get tired. But in knowing that I am not the queen of cups—that empathy cannot be endlessly expelled, that you do get tired.

So in the end, it was a lesson in enjoying it all.

In a city where everyone is taking themselves so seriously… sometimes having a sense of humor is important. That this body, this boy, is not perfect.

More importantly, I learned that I didn’t have to do it all alone. I had help. From my mother and mentors, Cari and Melissa, Kevin, etc.—help from those who are already adults, who have strove their own path and did it well enough to help you with yours… In understanding this, I began to understand how I could care for others and myself more efficiently.

I think that, while we are all so different…we are all subject to learning how to give back. It isn’t easy, especially while battling the human head (along with the introvert, the fool, etc. that are all inside.) I saw that some days, you must be a magician—waving wands in the form of word documents, phone calls, emails… It is a wonder who and how you can communicate with out of necessity. But it can be done.

In short, if Arizona helped heighten my personal sense of self, then correspondingly, DC helped me understand the concept of a “universal you”. In the end, it is all to be marveled—that you can do all this—and if here, then anywhere.


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