I have a background in Environmental Science.
I topped my high school senior class in Geography, graded well with Biology, have a love for nature, enjoy gardening and bushwalking, and had aspirations to work in National Parks and Wildlife. After four years of university studies in Ecology, Geomorphology, Land use Planning, Human Ecosystems, Sociology, Health and Development etc I graduated. 6 months ‘post Bachelor’ as a newly-wed requiring secure employment there was only one potential offer of work in my field. Waste-water testing at sewage outfalls. Checking levels of faecal matter in our creek.
There was nothing intrinsically wrong with potentially taking this position. In fact, it had incredible opportunity to help, considering the health merits to our ecosystem, but also the fact that we enjoyed swimming in the creek below the area being tested was of personal benefit too. Others work in this industry and find it a rewarding vocation. But it seemed to me that my vision for noble, world changing influence to save our planet had been reduced to effluence. Sure, I had the necessary skills; It would have meant the chance to work outdoors and expand into other work areas, but thinking about all the chemical testing, logging of data, and the reality check on where we went swimming made me anxious. I thought my job prospect stank. Literally.
Perhaps at the beginning of this year you feel the same. What dreams and aspirations you have -however grand or basic- are quickly being subsumed by lived realities. Maybe even having to continue to grapple with old patterns, people stresses, and practicalities that have rolled-over from 2018 are leaving you with less than pleasant aromas. I have learnt that there is always hope. Often things are seasonal. But also, that in each season there is different fruitfulness to be aware of. Perhaps more importantly is to be aware of how to turn unwanted matter into useable material to grow from.
It may sound over spiritual, but (back when I was about to take on the effluent testing job) I also had a sense that something significant to my life journey was about to occur. Because of my youth work, anthropological insights and cultural interests, I had also reasoned that any job would involve people engagement. I was available to whatever lesson was to be gleaned in this looming season of waste management. But I was also alert to God’s leading. We prayed -not just to get the answer we were after- but to hear how God was going to make it all work out, so we could line up with His heart in the matter.
On the eve of needing to accept what I deemed was the odorous option for employment, another job was afforded to me. It had less pay, less hours, wasn’t directly in line with my background, but it was working with people in a school environment. I took it and have had fulfilling, purposeful influential work in educational settings ever since.
Has my environmental background been a waste? No. I have used all the skills and loves of my training in settings incredibly diverse and in creative ways that I naturally may not have contemplated. This occurred firstly in that first school posting. I not only honed my skills copying and stapling, organising class room resources, and the usual teacher-aide duties, I was given the opportunity to work alongside our principal and physical education district staff to create and write immersive Environmental Education programs for our school and regional cluster. Since that time, I have utilised other talents intrinsic to my undergrad including (not limited to) outdoors experiential learning opportunities for people of all ages, the expanding Cross-Cultural supports in local and international communities, influence in planning and development in settings requiring creative solutions. My pastoral work within churches has also been reflective of all these practices giving me community wide influence into matters of local development, council and the issues of young people. This has also meant plenty of writing. Programs. Proposals. Plans. Scripts. Lesson evaluations. Reports. News articles. Press releases. Magazine production. Blogs. The experiences and engagement with all the diverse personalities and settings has given me a valued depth to my fictional writing too. Characters have developed, circumstances framed and deepened by my very own depth of experiences.
I continue to work in educational settings utilising those practical gifts of my environmental love and training. I am a trainer assessor. For 24 years I have been a Chaplain in schools and universities. I serve in cross cultural contexts every day; immerse into indigenous and international communities each year. I get to help develop, facilitate and learn in human and natural environments. And I am writing about it all.
Excuse the continued cliché, but I guess I have learnt to turn something that may have initially been seen as excrement into fertiliser. To turn dirt and waste into soil that helps things grow takes time, effort, patience, work, and the initial ingredients that may at first be repugnant into rich, fertile ground. Often bad situations, difficult proposals, challenging people, simply provide the basis for material for us to utilise to turn into the substance that helps us grow.
My prayer is that through my writing that it would help others grow too.
My hope is that you too will have a fruitful future, as you recognise the season and turn the unwanted egesta into a compost that helps grow beautiful things.