From a rather young age I knew that I wanted to help others and give back to the world somehow. Although that seems like a rather large concept for a child, it’s true. I never had the idea of being a ballerina, princess, or musician like you often hear children say. If you ask my family they will tell you that as soon as I could talk I wanted to work with animals. As a 5 year old, words like zoology, endangered species and veterinarian were a regular part of my vocabulary. I credit being from San Diego for that. My childhood memories are filled with trips to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. I cherished those times so much that it sparked an interest in animals away from the zoo as well. Growing up it was always my plan to study zoology and wild life in college.
This dream of mine never changed until my senior year of high school when I took my first psychology class. It wasn’t that my love for animals and the environment changed- that will always be something I hold tight in my heart- but that my love for helping others and making a difference grew even more.
Come January of my senior year I sat down to think about all that I had accomplished in high school. I had good grades, I was involved in different clubs and activities and volunteered when I could, all while managing to keep a job. Most students would be happy with that list but, being the over achiever that I am, I wasn’t. What had I done that really mattered or that helped me become a better person? I didn’t want to look back and think that I wasted years of my life when I could have been making a difference.
After making this disappointing realization, I had a prompting to reach out to a family friend and ask her about Invisible Children, the organization that she works with. Before I knew it I was setting up a fundraiser and documentary screening at my high school for April of 2011. That April is when my life changed for the better.
After graduating in May of 2011 I flew out to California for an Invisible Children conference and to visit family. During a trip to the zoo I was explaining to my grandma that I no longer wanted to work with animals; I planned to study psychology instead. She asked me why and up until that point I didn’t know the answer to that question myself. I looked over to the elephant enclosure next to us that read “ENDANGERED” and I said to her, “As much as I want to help endangered animals, I need to help endangered people too”. At that moment everything I loved and cared for came full circle.
I still, and always will, have a love for animals and the environment. I am thankful that I found something to be passionate about at such a young age. My love of animals and hopes of a future career kept me enthusiastic and focused from the beginning.
I am sharing this story because I want others to know that no matter how young (or old) a person, it is okay to have dreams regardless of how unsurmountable they may seem. At age five I really thought I was going to save all of the endangered species in the world. At 20 I realize that was unrealistic but along the way I learned that even if I just help one person then I have succeeded. Don’t let your dreams be a deadline or must. Instead use them as encouragement and motivation.