Environmental Leaders and Giving Thanks

In the fall, I tend to have a bit more time for reflection.   The whole season sometimes feels like Thanksgiving – a time to remember how lucky I am to have found myself with a stimulating job, network of friends, awesome boyfriend, and amazing family.  Because of the nature of my job, I also find myself remembering how lucky I am to have access to organic fresh food, time to prepare delicious meals, and the opportunity to attend conferences that broaden my professional network and push my thinking to new levels.

Last weekend the Environmental Leadership Program held its first ever All Community Retreat.  ELP is an organization whose mission is to build a diverse community of emerging leaders and create programs to support their development.  Last year, I was fortunate to be accepted into the New England Regional Network class of 2010.  I was especially grateful to have this opportunity early in my career.  As the youngest member of our group, I provided a different perspective on some issues but also gained tremendously from the numerous experiences already lived through by other fellows. Over the course of three weekend retreats, me and my 13 other peers honed our leadership styles, improved our strategic communication, and strengthened our outreach to diverse constituencies. I couldn’t believe that after our first weekend together, I already felt as though I’d made 14 new friends that I’d stay in touch with for the rest of my life.

Fast forward to last weekend.  Setting: an AMC lodge high up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Characters: 80 senior fellows, board members, and staff of ELP.

It seemed as though everyone in attendance was struggling with something – finding personal/professional balance, managing transition, trying to do too much with too little, and more.  As a group, we were also trying to define the role of senior fellows and the role we hoped ELP would play in our futures.  Despite these challenges, the weekend was incredibly inspiring, recharging my batteries and reminding me of the bigger picture of my work and life.  ELP is an entryway into an amazing cross-section of environmental movers and shakers.

For the first time since my final retreat last year, I was surrounded by a large group of people all working as part of the environmental movement.  I felt as though I was part of something bigger, and the role I play is one piece of a puzzle that we were all working to solve.  Given stark news regarding climate change, global water shortages, conflict driven by environmental issues, and hunger, it helps to be reminded that no one working to solve environmental challenges is alone.  Furthermore, we represented all sectors, many ages, diverse backgrounds, numerous struggles, incredible successes, and many geographic regions.   We gathered to share ideas, support each other, and enjoy other fellow’s company for a weekend away from our daily lives.

I realize it’s not always easy to find a profession that inspires, a lifestyle that grounds as it energizes, and a support network to celebrate success and catches you when you fall.  This autumn, I feel grateful to have begun to find these things already.  Thank you to everyone who is part of my support system – I hope I can be part of yours.

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