When I was a child on the east coast of Florida, the Indian River Estuary was my playground. I canoed out to the sandbar islands, water-skied, swam, rubbed aloe plants on my sunburns, watched manatees playing by the dock, and floated in the water, trying with all my psychic power to summon the dolphins to be my friends. On rainy summer days when thunderstorms shook the sky, I watched nature documentaries and veterinary shows. I learned about threats to the animals and ecosystems that held my heart. Pollution. Deforestation. Ocean acidification. Extinction. I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, but by the time I neared the end of college and the vet school application essay asked me why, I discovered that I didn’t know.
My path took the detour I didn’t know I needed and I took a job as a high school science teacher. I learned about people – their motivations, their learning styles, their roadblocks. I saw brilliant students flounder when their home life didn’t support them and I saw students from over-indulgent homes abuse their privilege.
I learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy. This is a motivational theory in psychology which consists of five levels of human needs, depicted as a pyramid. From the base of the pyramid to the top, the levels are physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization. It’s at the top of the pyramid where people are able to express their creativity and reach their full potential. If the needs in the lower levels aren’t met, if the individual isn’t safe, supported, self-assured, etc. they aren’t able to reach the top.
Why does this matter? Because the world doesn’t get the benefit of an individual’s creativity and potential unless they’ve reached self-actualization. Imagine all the creativity locked in the minds of people who can’t let it out because they have to worry about their safety. Imagine the possibilities if we could unlock that creativity. Imagine the problems we would solve in social justice, education, health, and conservation of endangered species. We would be limitless.
Becoming a teacher enabled me to reconnect with my love of learning. The day I learned the word theriogenologist, which is a veterinarian specialized in reproductive medicine, I was so excited that I dropped everything to call my mom, declaring, “There’s a WORD! There’s a word for what I want to do!”
I became a veterinarian, but I haven’t forgotten the importance of nurturing people’s path up the pyramid. When I learned about Homeward Bound, I knew I had found a leadership initiative unlike any other. Homeward Bound shares my vision that the leadership of the future is collaborative, inclusive, and nurturing. It aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in STEMM in making decisions that shape our planet. The depths to which we have been investigating our motivations, values, strengths, and challenges is unlike anything I’ve experienced.
Through this program, I will be trained as the collaborative, inclusive, nurturing leader I aspire to be and I will be connected with hundreds of like-minded women from around the world. Together, I believe we can amend the destructive decisions that have damaged our planet and guide humanity to a conscientious, ethical, and sustainable future.
Let’s create opportunities that enable the world’s potential!