Have I mentioned, lately, that Cowboy’s Sweetheart fans are the best? Well, they are. Seriously. These people are adventurous, intelligent, creative, conscious, compassionate, and authentic… doing inspiring things in the world by pursuing their dreams… and I get to call them my friends! Periodically, I feature a fan here so the rest of you can be exposed to, and inspired by, their kick-ass-ed-ness. This is one such time.
Today’s featured kick-ass fan is Christy Wall. She and I got to chat about what makes her thrive at the work she loves:
Me ~ What are you most passionate about right now?
Christy ~ Right now I am most passionate about being outside and living my life. Life is hard, and it’s stressful. You have to find joy in small things, and sometimes that’s a struggle for me. No matter what life throws my way, I know that I can always go for a long run or hike or ski and find beauty in the world around me.
I’m also really passionate about education. I co-teach River Classroom, a fantastic place-based hands on class where I take local students to a nearby river. This combines both of my passions; education and being outside. Our students learn chemistry, physics, biology, ecology, and geology in a local setting. They wade in the river and collect benthic macroinvertebrates. We spend a lot of time talking about the local impacts of what we’re learning. The kids love it, and their parents love it. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve really spent outside. It’s a fantastic opportunity for students in this rural area. Unfortunately, we are having a really hard time sustaining the program financially. Everybody deserves an education, and right now I feel like I’m battling a community that doesn’t value education at all. My students deserve to learn, and it’s really frustrating that successful programs like River Classroom aren’t being funded.
Me ~ Um, okay I admit I had to Google benthic macroinvertebrates. What small (or big) step did you take towards one of your passions today?
Christy ~ Today I woke up early so I could sit at the kitchen window, drink coffee, and watch my birds out the window. These are the same birds I’ve been seeing all winter. They’re mostly juncos, with a few scrub jays, house finches, and mountain chickadees (my favorite). A Cassin’s finch flew up and reminded me that I needed to put out more suet. Watching these birds is such a small thing, but it gives me hope. It reminds me to find joy in the little things, to stay positive, and to keep on flying, even when the weather sucks.
Me ~ Did or do you have to overcome any fears to do what you love?
Christy ~ I spent 8 years of my life in graduate school training to be a scientist. During this time, it became really clear to me that teaching is what I love, especially teaching environmental science in an outdoor setting. When I finished grad school, I was looking for a research position, but in my free time I began volunteering with New Mexico Wildlife Center to teach River Classroom. I loved it from the beginning- it’s a great way to combine my passions. Education is the only way to change the world, and it’s critical to maintaining the wild places where I love to be. When I was offered a job teaching River Classroom, I had to take a huge leap out of my comfort zone in the research world. I worried what my colleagues would think of me. I worried about where my career would go. I worried that I wouldn’t like teaching, but that I wouldn’t be able to go back to research. It was a very scary step to take, but I’ve learned so much, both about myself and the world. I don’t regret it.
Me ~ Who have you selected to surround yourself with to help support you as you pursue your passions? How do you emotionally support yourself throughout the journey?
Christy ~ Rural northern New Mexico is a difficult place to meet people. I’ve had a difficult time meeting other women my age. Fortunately in this world of perpetual connection thanks to the Internet, I have fantastic friends in Colorado and Utah. We meet as often as we can to ski, backpack, or run rivers. These fantastic women are my refuge- when I get overwhelmed with trying to solve all of the education problems in the entire state of New Mexico, I can get lost in the wilderness with other strong women who help me find my center once again.
I’m also lucky to have the world’s best and most supportive husband. He always seems to know what to say. There’s a lyric in a song by the Avett Brothers- “If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected. Decide what to be, and go be it.” That line really describes how I feel about our relationship, and that’s why it’s on my favorite Cowboy’s Sweetheart necklace. My other very favorite piece of Cowboy’s Sweetheart Jewelry is my set of Power Rings that say “Never give up.” I wear them every single day. I even wore them on my right hand when I got married. I had so many obstacles to my happiness, and somehow I pushed through them all. Looking back, I’m not sure how I did that. Every single time I look at my rings I remind myself that shit happens, and all I can do is keep on breathing and moving with one foot in front of the other. I have to be really careful not to lose the ring that says “Never.”
Me ~ I’m sure there are days when you feel overwhelmed and can’t see any tangible results for your efforts. How are you able to do what you love with persistence and patience?
Christy ~ It’s really difficult to see results in education. I hope that I make a difference in each student’s life, but I really don’t have any way of knowing the effect I have on them. When I get frustrated, I think of one particular student who was in River Classroom last year. On the second or third day I ever helped out with River Classroom, this 5th grader skipped lunch to look through the microscope with me. She was so enthusiastic and so excited to learn. Every single time I get frustrated with teaching or when I found out we didn’t get a grant, I think of this student.
Cowboy’s Sweetheart is donating to Christy’s cause… and you can, too! The New Mexico Wildlife Center is holding their annual fundraiser in June. This is the third year for this fundraiser, held every year in Eagle’s Nest, New Mexico. This year the fundraiser will be held on June 20 in Enchanted Eagle Park. Festivities include a rib cook-off, baking contest, auctions, wildlife education with live raptors, music, dance, a wildlife poetry contest, and vendors. All proceeds benefit the New Mexico Wildlife Center. For more information or to donate items to the auction, find Annual Eagle Nest Bear Benefit on Facebook or contact Stacie Ewing at 575-377-3382.