Who am I to change the world?

By: Valerie Winrow

In these early days of the Executive Masters of Natural Resources Program at Virginia Tech, my fellow classmates and I are getting to know ourselves and one another, perhaps in ways, we had not considered upon entering this program. We are learning ways to build trust, as we establish working relationships towards our common goal, which is to learn and grow as sustainability leaders.

In the words of the author and leadership expert, Robin Sharma, “Leadership is a wild, beautiful journey. It is dangerous and fun. You’re going to be exhausted, tested. You’re going to go to the jagged edges of your potential, but it is the most beautiful way to spend the rest of your life.”

At this point, we have learned a lot about effective ways to embrace conflict, while respecting each other’s vulnerability and personal freedoms. Through individual study and teamwork, we are beginning to develop mechanisms for problem-solving by exploring our “rider” (those aspects of our personality that drive decision making) and our “elephant,” the other part of a character that justifies the things we do whether right or wrong. In understanding how one relates to the other, we seek to find common ground in how we approach problem-solving.

The issues impacting our world are vast and complex. Earth’s population continues to expand and draw on its natural resources. Sustainability professionals must balance approaches to improving our living for a better today, and what we leave for now and future generations. Our precious Earth is ever evolving. As individuals, we should be learning and growing with it constantly. Don’t look at me and ask, “Are you a singer, writer, actress, businesswoman, entrepreneur or whatever?” I will proudly respond that I am all of those things and more. Why be just one when life has so much to offer, and the world needs so much? Beyond knowing who we are, we should also consider our place in this world in relation to those around us.

So who are you and why are you here?

What do you want? What are your motives? These questions may leave you stumped for a moment—they did for me when I first heard them. After giving it a bit of thought, I was perplexed for a while as voices from my past echoed inside my mind—memories of being taunted by classmates and later peers in my professional life who would at times say to me, “Girl, you ain’t all that.” Without fail, the natural response to this introspection is to wonder—well, how can I be all these things?

Much of our personality is built upon what we learned young

It is likely that growing up, your parents or some other well-meaning adult in your life said things like “it’s better to be a window than a door,” meaning you’re blocking my view.” Or “don’t let the door hit you on your way out,” meaning you can leave, but once you’re gone, you’re out of here. Undoubtedly, we can find humor in some of the things, but we may have also heard things that brought about hurt or confusion. Revisiting those childhood moments may bring about memories that evoke nostalgia or a myriad of emotions.

Your past experiences have shaped your leadership style

In the context of enhancing leadership skills, it is interesting to consider how the words of our past play into the ways in which we show up in our work and develop interpersonal relationships. Those past experiences may also impact our decision making relative to how we identify as individuals and determine what level of service, if any, we seek to provide as sustainability leaders.

Living a beautifully inspired life is my mantra. In going back to school, and I am putting tangibility to my desire to make the world a better place. More than just saying, beyond hoping and dreaming about it, I am actively pursuing this passion.

After taking almost a year and a half to figure out the who, what and why of my existence, I am grateful to be embracing a new reality. It took a while, but I had to get real with myself about the ways in which I am growing as a person and embrace what truly matters to me at this stage in my life.

The #BlackGreenGirl #SustainabilitySeries #XMNR2019 series is a snapshot of my experience at Virginia Tech’s Executive Masters of Natural Resources Program, highlighting various aspects of the learning experience. I must say that I am very proud of myself for taking this step forward. I can’t wait to change the world!

NOTE: This post has been modified from its original version.