Written by Kristina Middleton
Who Am I?
In brief, I would call myself a conservationist, activist, and nature addict (Potterhead would have to figure in there too!), with a love for exploring; be it my local nature reserve or a mountain range in some far flung country.
I grew up on a small island and, despite being young and clueless I felt a constant pull to explore new places and find exotic wildlife – my poor mother could barely keep up. At 16 I asked my mum if I could join a BSES Expedition to Madagascar and a few years later I announced that I was going to volunteer in South Africa. Not long after, I broke the news that I intended to go backpacking for a year! I couldn’t get enough. While I was training to become a Scuba Specialist in Australia I applied to go back to university to pursue my dream career in wildlife conservation – it seemed I had finally found some clarity and self-confidence.
The long and short of my path into conservation was one of saying ‘Yes’ to every opportunity I could. And working for free….A LOT! We all know it…that’s why you’re here right?! Fed up of it? During my time at university I volunteered in animal rescue centres, social media, data processing, marine conservation activism, and community engagement. On top of that, I’ve pursued science communication in my own time, launching a blog and networking as much as possible. Having allies, gaining new experiences, and widening my skill set has opened me up to new work opportunities and a support system that’s honestly taken me by surprise.
I’ve written a few blogs on this topic already – I hope you won’t hate me for this shameless plug- but for those of you who want to know more, here’s my post about volunteering in conservation.
Despite working as hard as I can, I still do the millenial/imposter syndrome thing – punish myself for not doing more. Maybe I should’ve volunteered even more last year? She seems to be working so hard…maybe I’m not working hard enough? It goes on and on. It’s exhausting but I’m working on being better to myself; appreciating that I’m not the only one struggling and that time for myself and my family is more important than spending every waking moment ‘hustling’.
The biggest challenge I have faced has been a lack of confidence and impostor syndrome. At school I found science really hard – I found academia hard! I didn’t thrive in school so I under-performed. When I left, I turned my back on science, assuming it wasn’t for me because I just couldn’t hack it. But, as I said, I went back to uni years later as a mature student. A bit of life experience helped me see past this a little and push for the grades I knew that I was capable of. And I got them!!
That being said, impostor syndrome doesn’t go anywhere and sometimes it feels as though I’ll never truly believe in myself as a scientist. A saving grace however, has been understanding that conservationists come in many forms and we can’t all be statisticians and hard-core biologists. I am a scientist – my Master’s qualifies me to say that. But, I have other skills that make me an asset to the world of conservation – I’m good with people, words, and project management. Ghaaad, why has it taken until I’m nearly three decades old to realise that!
Let me just tell you this – if you are currently going through this right now: if you’re battling with exam revision and feeling down on yourself; if you’re facing rejection after rejection in your job search; or if you’ve won yourself a job but convinced it’s too much for you, you absolutely will get there. You’ll have hard days and you’ll make mistakes. But it will lead you to discovering your strengths and, more importantly, your worth.
Right now I am actually un-employed and on the job hunt. I recently finished an internship at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust which was a dream come true and gave my CV a real boost, I think. But the market is just as competitive as ever and sometimes it feels as though jobs are extremely thin on the ground. All I can do is keep trying. I have lots of plans for my blog and pursuing science communication, and I’m prioritising my mental health. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a big advocate for normalising the conversation around poor mental health, so I intend to practice what I preach and simply make sure I end 2020 having been more mindful. You know where to reach me if you are struggling. 🙂
For more of Kristina, follow @conservationistkrissy on Instagram